Darkland Express part one

by Greg Segal

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"Darkland Express" is my big, snarling "fuck you" to life growing up in the latter half of the 20th century. Why so negative? Well, I suppose in the scheme of things, I did have it good. One can always refer to the "ear on the pillow" joke for the reverse of that argument* But here's the thing. We had everything we needed as a species to make the earth a good place for all of us. How about just the U.S., where I grew up? All the resources were certainly there for us to have taken a saner approach to life. Material resources, that is. Internal resources- that's where we, and on this I do again include the world, come up short. Instead of providing for people, and creating an environment where helping each other constituted "the good", we kept on fostering an adverserial, hoarding way of life, and insisting it was not just the best but the only way to go. Lip service to other methods was paid only as frequently as necessary to either garner greater public approval, or convince ourselves we were not taking the road which we were in fact hurtling down at top speed, with no brakes.

When I wrote this, whether at the beginning or end of the process, I was actively engaged both in trying to navigate my way into a settled an active role in the scheme of things, and in trying to find a way, any way, to get the hell out of something that every fiber of me disagreed with. It seemed as though success in either direction might kill me, but so would inertia. As you may guess, this produced quite a bit of anxiety. Much of that surfaces here in the lyrics. Some people may find the results heavy handed. If you do, that's your right. You should probably listen to something else then. Ditto for those who find the lyrical content lacking in mature perspective. It was written between the ages of 16 and 29. If you don't feel that an immature perspective has any place in being voiced, again, please move along. Because while I may not feel the same as I did when many of these pieces were written, a young perspective is valid as long as young people who may feel that way exist; and also, for as long as their concerns must be addressed with platitudes and double talk, as a means of getting them to get on with things, shut up and go away.

There are other things going on here as well. One of the results of such an alienated lifestyle is a lack of connection, and in many cases, a turning inward. The mind is a multifaceted dynamo of survival techniques. I think we connect with each other whether we like it or not. The mechanism which I believe may be responsible for taking us out of ourselves, and into the minds and likes of others, works best when we sleep, through dreams. These then get clothed in our personal symbols erasing many of the original details which might otherwise serve as proof of an external connection. More simply put, we dream each others' lives. This is what is referred to in the "host eyes" concept of "Shadow Books". But in fact many of the little stories on this album and on "Water From The Moon" originate in this concept. If it's not clear how this might relate back to the political side of the album, I'll tell you: we're socialist whether we like it or not. We're linked whether we like it or not. We cannot actually escape each other. In fact, I believe it goes even farther; but as I'm already pushing forward something most people would find foolish or questionable, I will leave it where it is, and hope that one day I have the guts to discuss it in depth. I'm not there yet.

If you are interested in back stories, read on. I will give details about each song, technical and personal, as we go.

Dedication for the 2016 release: This one is for everyone who thinks I "make that weird music 'cause I can't do anything else".

*The "ear on the pillow" joke: A couple have a baby with one leg shorter than the other. They tell the doctor how sad this makes them, and the doctor proceeds to assure them there are many children who have it worse. They can't imagine it. He takes them on a tour of the "casualties" section of the maternity ward. Each one is worse than the next, missing various body parts, until they get towards the end. They see a baby who is only a head on a pillow. The couple think they've seen the worst they can see, but the doctor takes them to the last bed. There is nothing on the pillow but an ear. "An ear, oh doctor, yes this is terrible, as bad as it can get!" The doctor shakes his head. "No, it's even worse than you imagine. You see, that ear is deaf."

Original "Darkland Express" notes (from gregsegal.com, 1999, and cassette release, 1996):

Darkland Express is the big bad sequel to "Water From the Moon". While recording was done between 1991 and 1993, some of the material goes back all the way before I played an instrument. Old songs are mixed with new songs but none were previously recorded. I think somehow I was just waiting for the right time to bring it all together, because when I went to record, all of these seemingly disparate pieces fit perfectly.

Like Water From the Moon, many of the songs were based on dreams. Both albums share a common approach and theme: basically, the dark side of modern life, seen through dreams (and the events and internal pressures they reflect). It's about being trapped at every turn and how people deal with that. They escape through apathy and numbness; they escape through depression; they escape through madness, violence and suicide; they escape through dropping out and living at the bottom of the world- or being forced into that. Or they take vacations, play hooky from school or work. Otherwise, they go about their affairs like they're awake when actually they are in a sort of half-sleep brought about by ignorance, programming and routine. Most of the elements of their lives are unquestioned. And they pressure each other, subtly or otherwise, not to question things and start making life difficult. It becomes something like a totalitarian state: we are all expected to live that way, that is the way of the world, shut your mouth and keep going; a blindered, frightened, grinding push to nowhere. And so, though the people of the world cannot or will not see it, except in dreams or out of the corners of their eyes- the world goes about its business in darkness.

It is also, then, an album about life in the cracks between worlds, a tour of hidden realities; the interplay of the symbolic and the physical. Dream life and waking life blend and reflect each other, comment on each other, perhaps giving insight. Past and present merge. Dream cities are revisited, recurring like real places, with known streets and alleys and shops. It is possible that they are more than symbols or distortions of waking life. Like dream people , they may or may not be real: in telepathic dreams, strangers can share each other's hidden moments, even though they may be widely seperated by geography and even by time. These dreams may give a sense of deep connection; but that is washed away by the alarm clock. A haunting sense of lost contact lingers for the rest of the day, or longer.

Meanwhile, in the waking world, pressure escalates and real escape is nowhere; until, from the darkness invisible to human eyes, symbolic reality rises up to overshadow the physical- and at times, to obliterate it.

Dedication: for my family.


1. Some people manage to find work they love or can love the work they find. Good for them. We should all be so lucky.

2. Not all cops are evil rotten bastards. But the ones who inspired "The Bust" were.


released April 29, 2016

All songs written and performed by GS.
Instruments: 6, 12 string and fretless electric guitars; acoustic guitar; 4 and 8-string basses; acoustic and electric drums/percussion; organ; vocals, breathing and whistling; tapes; bowed device; keyboards; piano.

Written 1980- 1992. Recorded at Phantom Airships 2 & 3, and at McKeever Manor with the Airship mobile, 6/91-10/92. Additional overdubs 1996 at Phantom Airship 4, and 4/16 at Phantom Airship 7.

Remixed and remastered, April 2016.


all rights reserved


Track Name: Home Again
You take the tracks down through industry plains
about 30 miles or so

At the end of the line you'll find my town,
Where the down and the dead people go

The tracks lead straight to a red brick wall,
about 75 feet square

The back sides of buildings to either side,
Looks like a dead end but don't despair

See that light shining through the haze
from the alley to the right

Down the alley you've got to go,
Don't be afraid, it'll be all right

Home again
To a place that only seems to be
Home again
A place I visit in my dreams

They used to call it Hooverville
when it finally got a name

Fifty years on it was Reaganville,
but it all seemed to look the same

Population's grown from times unknown
and places seldom seen

Every color and pride bought a one way ride
To industrial hell and the western dream

Home again
To a place that only seems to be
Home again
A place I visit in my dreams

Well I've got my own favorite places here,
Friends' back street apartments and flats
The boulevard backshops and booklands
Or uptown where the Chateau and the legacy stands

And sometimes I'm back in school again
From grade school through to college

And I never know what I'm doing there
And I feel like I'm crazy and I have to pretend

I'm all right...It's all right...
Everything is all right

But I'm full of shit, don't you know it
I'm scared and don't know what to do

There's community here but I don't belong
An impostor they laugh with and refuse to see through

So I'm

Home again
To a place that only seems to be
Home again
A place I'll visit in my dreams

In a place so ugly and full of despair
For all of us rogues there's still something there

Adventure and the force of life,
Air of damp electrical autumn nights

Ivy hills in the suburbs by the grey morning light
10 a.m. and the schedule has been thrown out of sight

The boulevard waits and the scenes portend
I'm out of the structure and into the cracks once again

Meet me there
When all is said and done

I hope to be as free
As when I'm on the run

Free to haunt the odd places I love best
Meet me there

We'll put things to the test
And we'll be

Home again
To a place that only seems to be
Home again
A place I'll visit in your dreams...

G.S., 6/2/91
Track Name: Apartments
Places to stay

All familiar
None of them home

Places have spirits

Though most can't feel them

Contacts made on planes unknown

A place has a presence
Something like a person
Abstract yet somehow
Direct and pure

Stains left behind by those who've passed through
Intent of design shows even more

Who were they built for
These cubicle patterns
Resembling but never embodying home

The children of Wotan
A nation of strangers
Living only to work
And then moving on

I've lived in too many to count
Each one's left a stain on my soul

Anonymous places
Rented lives

Move in when it's fresh and
Move out when it gets old

The past is a landmark condemned and torn down
Leaving photos and memories as testament

Apartments and people
Existing alone

Strangers thrown together
Making the best of it

G.S., 7/3/91
Track Name: Legacy
It was morning
And down the streets
In endless numbered rows
The time worn shops of spectral merchants stood open.
Inviting you to buy their wares

Come and buy
Here where the lost souls shop
In search of that special something
That can bring the magic back to their lost lives.

The morning doors are open.....
The spectral shops call.....
Come and buy your life away.....
Spend your life today.....

G.S., '86
Track Name: Life In A Vacuum
Life in a vacuum goes flowing, smoothly
Unbroken by friendship, or light, or loving
the darkness and isolation find substance;
And into the vacuum cold hatred is born.

False evidences of difference are conjured;
Fear of one's kind turns to mistrust and rage.
The crowd turns away from innocents they have injured
And celebrate deadly myths of their age.

Life in a vacuum shows no replacement
The road to take was chosen for you
And all the signs pointing other places
Are buried in waste and tears and ash;

Changing bodies make you weaker
Lots of cracks still in your armor
As each one finds the other's weakness
We will be there to inject our plans.

As if a father beat his son when he was weak
The boy might not forget and turn the other cheek
Instead he grows up scared and beats his only son
Look beyond the parable,
This nightmare's just begun....

Life in a vacuum goes flowing smoothly
As lies civilized always end up as fact
And no one who sees the game that we're playing
Can turn his eyes away from the act

As we have been so shall we be
To fade out on a sour note
Like cats caught in a burning tree
No way to chase the hand that wrote.

G.S., 11/10/81 (v. 1 &2) and 10/15-16/85 (remainder)
Track Name: Honor
What can you own
When you refuse to own yourself
What are you worth
When you live your life for wealth

Who do you fool
When you live life as a lie
Where is self respect
When you live your life to die

What becomes of life
When security is your god
Broken by the world

As a tractor breaks the sod
Everything you do
Revolves around the cash
Everything you've dreamed

Has been thrown out with the trash
How can you live without, live without
Where you draw the line
Freedom lies dying

My world is not your world
We are like strangers in the street
Perhaps the day will finally come
When you and I can finally meet

Until that day I own myself
Even if your fear owns you
I play the game to buy my shelter
But you've been purchased through and through

How can you live without
Live without

Where you draw the line
Freedom lies dying

G.S., late '85 or early '86
Track Name: It Got Old Years Ago
The alarm clock rings
Time to get up again
Your life's the same as it's always been
Time is torn by the clock hands for somebody else
Now you work for the money
And not for yourself

It got old years ago
This whole thing got old years ago

Remember back in school
How you felt the same way
The same old feeling at the start of the day
'Cause you learned what they taught you
and not what you sought
Had to play all their games so you wouldn't get caught

It got old years ago
This whole thing got old years ago

You get to work
Take the same old crap
Necessity's got you caught in it's trap
Can't look for a job if you have to work
Necessity makes you feel like a jerk

Going home the traffic gets you down
So many people, such a big town
Not one would care if you turned up drowned
They're just like you and me...

Your door is armed with many locks
Your dinner comes from a cardboard box

The same old pain
The same old blues
The same old deaths on the evening news

It got old years ago
This whole thing got old years ago

G.S., mid '85
Track Name: The Bust
The black and white rolls up the road
You feel so very far from home
There's no way out, the law's the law
Don't you know KID?

See, they just don't care what you do,
Since it ain't really up to you
The orders come and orders never lie, KID.

They can't look at themselves
So they point straight at you
They've seen your type before
You're just another kid stoned and breaking the law

And you rob
And you steal
Or you kill
Or you deal...it's all the same to them.

The cuffs are on
The club comes down
They kick you as you hit the ground
That's OK, you gave 'em shit,
Don't you know, kid?

They take their anger to the streets
They've got nobody else to beat
Your rights are just a fallacy,
Don't you know kid?

G.S., early '82
Track Name: Battleground
Long nights spent alone in shadow
The days roll into one
Here on this battleground,
I can't tell when another day's begun

But I really don't mind, it's a haze not unkind
There's no way to unwind anyway
No I really don't mind, it's a haze not unkind
There's no way to unwind anyway

When I started out on this journey
Oh it seems like a long time ago
Emotion was easy, to touch was to live
Our eyes locked in silence, to love was to give

Seems like once I had more to say
Seems like once I had less to feel
Seems like once when I was young
Things were somehow much more real

An end to dependence on this concrete lie,
The earth grows tired of dying
I just sit here and watch the world go by
Sometimes I grow tired of trying

Just more nights spent in shadow
And days spent on coals
In search of more nights and more days and more goals

But I really don't mind, it's a haze not unkind
There's no way to unwind anyway
No I really don't mind, it's a haze not unkind
There's no way to unwind anyway

The t.v. flickers blue in the heart of night
And casts patterns on my sweat-drenched skin
My muscles knot, all cramped and taught
In a box of a room that's cramped and hot
You know the battle never stops

Just another day Just another night
Just another day Just another night
Just another day Just another night
Just another day Just another

Long night spent alone in shadow
The days still roll into one
With a battleground mentality the battle's never won

Until we're in the ground and safe and sound
And our children are left to pick up our weapons
Trapped on the battlefield
we have chosen to leave them on

Fight on brave soldiers
The dawn is coming
And with it
Another night

Day and night

Dissolve to one

G.S., summer '82
Track Name: Climb Out
Sitting in my car on the freeway
Five p.m.

Congested knots of traffic
Poison spouting metal phlegm

And freedom looks so far away
And the sky so very blue does say:

.....Climb out...Climb out.....

Sitting in my car on the freeway
Five p.m.

This life just don't sit right with me
So my life I will condemn

My heart beats fast
My knees are shaking
Palms are sweating
Bladder aching as I

Climb out. Climb out.
Outside of my car on the freeway
Five p.m.

The cars roll past
Their horns they blast
I don't care
I laugh at them

Suddenly I feel like flying
Body breaks and I am dying so I

Climb out Climb out

G.S., 12/22/81
Track Name: Hellhound In My Heart
Hell hound in my heart
Tearing me apart
Wants to write your name
In blood on the ground

Hell hound in my heart
Raging down at anything
Anything that moves
Or makes a sound

Look at me wrong and you're dead

Can I stop this
Before I take my world to hell
Or will it take some silver force
And death to break the spell
Don't look at me
Don't talk to me
You strangers all around
It wants your blood to feed the ground
The hell hound in my heart

Look at me wrong and you're dead

G.S., 3/31/91
Track Name: Pushcart Blues
When I was a child, I was told
As soon as they could, they'd make me old
And give me a cart to push around
In circles
For the rest of my life.

I asked if there was an option;
They laughed and soon I was old.
I was given a cart to push around
like everyone before me.

I cannot get my hands free;
if I let go, the cart will run over me.
So they took my hands away
But they could not take my eyes.

Now I sit and watch everyone push their cart
While the rivers and oceans die
While the air gets harder to breathe
'Til the earth no longer bears food

While people sell their eyes
I must stand by and watch

As the children are trained for their pushcarts,
The fools build on a top-heavy world
Still I must push my cart
And I must fight the urge to be blind

Everything's falling down
Still I push the cart
Now they say we've got less than a lifetime left
And everyone still pushes their carts

Without hands
Without eyes
Though a few still remember how to cry
I watch without a sound
As the sun goes down.

G.S., 11/12/86
Track Name: Nobody Listening At Home
There's a battle tonight on the streets
Fighting the cold and the heat
Looking for somewhere to sleep

It could happen to you or to me
Doesn't matter who you claim to be
Sometimes fate takes you down, don't you see?

I know this old man whose son will not allow him to stay
"My father died some time ago" is all that he will say

Now he sleeps in the rain and the cold
It's too late to speak words left untold
Won't be long 'til he's gathering mold

Wonder what his young grandson would say
To know grandfather's passing away
Somewhere out in the slums of L.A.

Turning on, the world turns darker every single day
People falling from the order into the decay

I can't handle a job or a strain
Seems I'm constantly going insane
With no options how am I to blame?

Wasn't lazy, just differently strung
Thought I'd wait but I waited too long
Shut me out and my chances were gone

Folks back home and friends I've known
won't bother with me now
Can't say that I blame them,
nonetheless I'm going down

Stand for living or sit down for death
Mumble uselessly under your breath
That the rest of the world has gone deaf

We've been treated like trash to be thrown
Don't leave us out here alone
But there's nobody listening at home

G.S., 12/30/91
(with substantial revision of "Shelter", 1/13/92)
Track Name: What Gives You The Right
What gives you the right
To take my life and throw it on the fire
Drown individuality in seas of mass stupidity

Following after

Following each other like the cattle to the slaughter
ing machines of your hypocrisy
minds dulled by false tranquility
Cycles repeating

Just remember that you've seen it all before.
All your problems weren't solved by the end of one war.
You're looking on but your minds are a decade past.
Can't remember why but you know you've gotta hold on

G.S., early '80

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