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Ironbark (2016 expanded edition)

by Tom Slatter

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about

Ironbark was the first album that I planned as a whole. Not that it's a concept album as such, but it was written to be a single work of art with all the songs fitting together in terms of tone, subject matter, harmonic approach and so on. My first solo album, Spinning the Compass sort of happened by accident when I realised some of the songs might work together. Ironbark was intentional.

The title comes from an Australian poem about a gullible yokel from the town Ironbark who is fooled into believing his throat was cut by a mischievous barber:

'He raised his hand, his brow grew black, he paused awhile to gloat,
Then slashed the red-hot razor-back across his victim's throat:
Upon the newly-shaven skin it made a livid mark -
No doubt it fairly took him in - the man from Ironbark.' - Ironbark Banjo Paterson 1892

I stumbled across it while reading up on the Sweeney Todd story, and thought it sounded like a splendid place. Except rather than being inhabited by yokels who are afraid to visit barbers, my Ironbark is inhabited by murderous scientists, evil townsfolk and at least two people who think it a good idea to live beyond death in steam-powered machines.

The bonus tracks here include 'They Tried To Turn The Lights On' which i wrote at the time but recorded more recently and 'Three' the sequel to 'Two' from Spinning the Compass. At some point I will record 'One' as well, which does exist.

The live tracks are the whole of the Miser's Will, recorded at a lovely house concert in North London. This gig ties as one of my three favourite ever gigs. The audience were really into it, but behaved like a classical audience rather than a rock audience. They were entirely silent, listening to every single note. For a performer this is slightly terrifying but all the more exhilarating for it.

Having recently listened back to Ironbark after a few years not having heard it, I am genuinely proud of it. It pushes what I could do with the level of expertise and equipment I had at the time. While I think it is still clearly a home studio recording, it sounds good. It is also where I think I really found my voice as a songwriter after several years of floundering about trying out different styles.

I like it, I hope you do.

Thanks for listening.

Tom Slatter April 2016

credits

released May 23, 2016

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Tom Slatter London

A latter-day Victorian street-theatre barker with a guitar promising tales of mystery, imagination, ‘orrible murders and bloody great waving tentacles’ is how Tom Slatter has been described. Since 2010 he has been scaring audiences with five albums and numerous EPs of storytelling songs. ... more

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Track Name: The Beast Of The Air
The Beast Of The Air

We sprang into motion when they told us the news,
Half a herd snared by the beast of the air,
Propellers awhirring we took to the skies,
Off to destroy the kraken

And as we rose higher, our engines ablur,
A strange copper tang filled up our lungs,
Scent of the kraken,
Afloat on the breeze
Grew stronger the closer we flew

The beast of the air wails a song,
Wails a song to keep us dreaming

An eye through the clouds
Tentacles reaching
An eye through the clouds
Tentacles bewitching

The beast of the air wails a song,
Wails a song to keep us dreaming
Track Name: SteamLife
And isn't it strange how the clicking things are,
They can catch you when you're waking,
Nails on metal behind the walls,
Wake you when you're sleeping
They flee when you look at for them, gnash strange teeth,
There's dust on the nightmare still
Isn't strange how the blueprints can live,
With their steam and teeth and claws

Doesn't anyone know what the heart is for?
Doesn't anyone see what I see?
Doesn't anyone know what the mind is for?
This Steamlife lives

Isn't it strange how logic can escape you,
All of my designs are designing themselves
The factories breeding when the lights go down,
It isn't just just me, it isn't just me!

Doesn't anyone know what the heart is for?
Doesn't anyone see what I see?
Doesn't anyone know what the mind is for?
This Steamlife lives

Scratch scream
Running through mazes
They act like the rats we made them like
Do you see the steamlife?
Oh no , don't turn your back cos they might make a break for freedom now do you see the steamlife?
They've been designing themselves when the lights are turned off they will draw their own blueprints
Scratch scream only in dreams do I know that
Beneath the floors and in the walls they're breeding
More more
Running through mazes they act like the rats we made them like

Don't you see this steamlife?

Why can't you follow?
Why can't you see?
The creatures still haunting real as you or me.
Track Name: The Miser's Will I: The Cartographer's Tale
And I'll confess, I didn't know what I would find
I drew these maps, but I didn't make the marks that you see
Follow, follow said the letter and so I did
And I'll confess, I didn't know what I would find

Drawing maps should lead you so far astray

Hello my love look what I found
Hidden in a hole in the ground
I dug these metal claws out of the earth and I don't know why

I'll confess, it's strangest tale I have heard
I received this map, with instructions to follow and dig.
Dig dig dig, is what it said and so I did,
And now I'm bound to take what I found into town

Drawing maps shouldn't lead me so far astray

Hello my love look what I found
Hidden in a hole in the ground
They're brass and gold and leather too
Dead yet somehow feel alive
I dug these metal claws out of the ground and I don't know why

Are you the one who sent for me?
The will's executer?
Are you the one who wants these claws,
Are you the man I seek?

Put down the gun, I did as you asked
Put down the gun please

Drawing maps shouldn't lead you so far astray

Goodbye my love, cos what I found
Hidden in a hole in the ground
Has cost me everything that I hold dear
Cost me everything that we shared

Goodbye my love, where I go now
Is not shown on any map
I return to you if only I could
If only I knew the way

I dug those metal claws out of the ground and I don't know why.
Track Name: The Miser's Will II: What The Orderly Saw
I pushed the trolley,
that killed me dead

I pushed the trolley
that carried the corpse
That killed me dead

I pushed the trolley
That carried the corpse
the doctor cut the brain out of
That killed me dead

He placed it in a jar with chemicals
Electric pulses racing through the flesh

I pushed the trolley that carried the corpse the doctor cut the brain out of,
I watched the doctor meet the man that killed me dead

I pushed the trolley that carried the corpse the doctor cut the brain out of
I watched the doctor meet the man that shot the doctor through the head then killed me dead

Placed it in a jar with chemicals
Electric pulses racing through the flesh
Grey matter revived beyond its time

He thinks death’s an illness to be treated, the doctor said to me
Well even the dead can be cheated the doctor said to me
He asked for more than they agreed, the doctor’s dead
But the man in black spotted me, and so I fled

I’ve seen you have you seen me, have you come to shut me up?
His booted feet upon the floor, come to shut me up
The smoking gun in his hand come to shut me up
I don’t remember my last, Only what I saw

He placed it in a jar with chemicals
Track Name: The Miser's Will III: Watermen's Square
Stories can change, rumours can spread, facts can grow with the telling
But what we pulled up from the depths of the thames, was as dark and strange as they say.
Ribs made of rust and tendons of steel, mishapen and twisted with age.
The toll of years beneath the waves had all but obscured the human shape

In watermen’s square, we sleep with the lights on
In watermen’s square, we all hide away

Beneath greying skies we smuggled it back, back to the watermen’s square.
Gas lamps alight, we studied and starred, but made head nor tail of our find
Five past midnight, a black form appeared, stood at the gates of the square
He said I believe that what you’ve found doesn’t belong to you, I’ll be taking it now

In watermen’s square, we sleep with the lights on
In watermen’s square, we all hide away

We had told no-one, of the structure we pulled up
We had told no-one, yet the stranger still appeared
He produced papers, but we didn’t read them, we just let him take it.

In watermen’s square, we sleep with the lights on
In watermen’s square, we all hide away
Track Name: The Miser's Will IV: The Engineer
I woke in this workshop
Vision pink around the edge
handcuffed to this workbench
I'll do as I'm told
The Man in black has me working all night long

Claws made of metal and leather.
Soil and rust to be cleaned off.
Handcuffed to this workbench I'll fix what I'm told to fix.
The man in black has me working oh so hard

The last chance I have of staying alive
Is if I can assemble these pieces
The executor he keeps me alive
But he keeps my mind in pieces.

I remember flowers I remember my lost love
What her name could be escapes me now
Among the things I'm dreaming of

I have welded steel to flesh and fed it electricity
There are brains in jars and men with scars
Of the things i forget I've seen.

The last chance I have of staying alive
Is if I can assemble these pieces
The executor he keeps me alive
But he keeps my mind in pieces.

They keep me awake
They keep all the lights on
However I cry out
They keep all the lights on
All the lights on

The last chance I have of staying alive
Is if I can assemble these pieces
Track Name: The Miser's Will V: Reading The Will
Black carriages gather in the snow in mourning clothes the family wait
The executor voice frozen snow clears his throat and begins to read the will

“To my nephews I leave nothing to my nieces even less
to my daughters not a single penny and nothing goes to all the rest
I will leave you all that you deserve
I will leave you all that you have earned
I will leave you nothing, but what you gave to me”

Stop there, cried out all relatives
We all deserve our inheritance
We'll not be denied all that's owed to use
We will not be denied

To my debtors I condemn you my detractors I ignore
my leeching goddaughters I damn you
My sisters both are cheating whores
I have found my own solution
A place for all my wealth
A noble cause, a just investment I'll keep it for myself|

Stop there cried out all the family
What can he mean by that?
We were there to see him in his grave
We made sure that he was dead

As they shook there heads in confusion the door was tossed aside
A monster wreathed in steam appeared a golem made of iron
It's hulk was black and twisted, eaten up by wind and sea
It's claws were leather, gleaming steel
It's voice a piston's hiss
The last time you saw me alive
Was not the last time I lived

Encased in iron where it's head should be
Floating in a jar of chemicals
Fizzing with electricity
Sat the brain of the miser

Hello my family, I have returned
What you buried in that hole in the ground was nothing
a shell, a useless husk
I am new, I am better I am made to live again

Goodbye you vultures, what I am now
A corpse of metal you can't devour
Powered by steam and strange alchemy
Beyond all disease and injury
good bye you leeches, goodbye you fools
My fortune is mine and mine alone
I have planned and plotted and murdered too
I'll keep my fortune for myself
You thought you'd take your fill once I was gone
But I'll keep it all.
Track Name: Ironbark
Here in Ironbark,
We paint the walls red
We keep our streets neat and clean
And the factories, they hum and they churn
And all the shop windows gleam
We're a happy town, such a happy town Here in Ironbark

The first man to die, The baker was found in his oven, black and burned,
A message left in blood and flour: 'You'll recieve everything you earned'
It's a happy town, such a happy town, here in Ironbark.

When corpses rise, and speak as one, Someone has to pay
Five men know where the bodies are buried, Here in Ironbark
Five men know where the bodies are buried,
Here in Ironbark

The second man to die, the ratcatcher,
Found poisoned, black and blue, The message left, in ash and blood: 'Justice comes for you'. We're a happy town
The authorities sent their man,
Though the mayor said no to them,
The detective sent, found no clues at first,
So he baited and set his traps
Such a happy town, such a happy town

The killer, spilling steam from his joints, Marched towards the end
Five men know where the bodies are buried, Here in Ironbark

Five men know where the bodies are buried, here in Ironbark

The third man dead, the undertaker,
Nailed in a coffin and then set alight,
Cremated alive, message left him “no forgiveness for anyone for all of you”

No fingerprints or clues only tire tracks
I'll not make head nor tail until someone tells the truth
The skeletons they hide
The murders, the lies and conspiracies

Who should care for justice?
Who should care for those with no voices to speak
Speak up, break the silence
Speak up, don't hold your tongue and help them keep all their secrets
Secrets find their way out
Secrets burn your conscience till you cry out for someone
Someone must know something
Someone must have some clue to what, why or who?
Who should care for justice?
Who should care for those with no voices to speak?

Killer
Programmed and primed
Those men were killed by some automaton

Last words
Fragments and scraps
The broken parts of an old man's final dreams

Maybe justice served when we killed the mayor
All the voices shout in our punch card mind

Beep beep click clack hack slash burn
They stole all my ideas and now I'm taking what I'm owed

Revenge
Murdered in kind
Madness of valves and fuses, pistons, cogs and wires

Secrets
Secrets and lies
Tempted to let it play out to its bloody end

Fragments of last words
The essence of a man captured in binary
Holes punched in card
A thinking engine pressing forward bent on revenge
The five men who killed it's maker each have met their end
Baker, Smith, Ratcatcher, Undertaker, Mayor
Conspiracy of silence about all that happened there
This town is eating up it's tail
This town is eating up it's tail
This town is eating up it's tail
And five men know where the bodies are buried here in Ironbark

Please get me out of hear
Someone set me free
Please let me out of hear
Someone get me
Someone let me
Out of this town Ironbark

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