This single, released after There Is No One What Will Take Care Of You (though not on the album) was produced by two members of Royal Trux. As a ‘single’ it’s not exactly ‘commercial airplay’ stuff even though the contents are entertaining fare; dead-duck looking thing on the sleeve, joyless lyrics set to faintly twilit melodies, the night coming down, glum, humdrum themes of death and despair. But as Oldham says, recording songs like these takes energy and that energy is translated into the music as a means to fight the moods therein contained.
Come In… is a dirgly, minimalist atmosphere thing, a few brushes on skins, sparse jangles, and what sounds like a low cello moaning throughout the song, beautiful. Lyrically the song reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s “Winter Lady,” which Oldham covers on 1994’s Hope EP. In both songs, the narrator invites someone into his house to stay before she (or he) moves on. The lyrics here are lightly suggestive of the pain the narrator feels at seeing this person going away. “Come in / For one last dinner / That I will make you / Come in … It is a small one / For I am no cook,” he sings, in a series of aching phrases, though there’s a dry drollness in Oldham’s voice. The traveler is moving on because he or she is “no longer welcome” though whether it’s the narrator who no longer welcomes the visitor is unclear. “I am happy / You will be leaving / Things will be changing for you.” There are hints of something wrong in this person’s life. Apparently he/she is returning to Egypt, but “they are not your family / They are not your friends / But a false history / And you aren’t sorry.” It quickly becomes ambiguous as to who he’s singing to here—it could be himself, or it could be the visitor, and if the visitor, does he mean the people in ‘Egypt’ are not friends or family, or the people being left behind? This is always the result of Oldham’s cut-up lyrics—meaning hinges on what connections you make between lines, but when the connections are elided, you’re left with what I call a ‘Warlocks Of Firetop Mountain’ effect. The story could go any way, whatever narrative your mind naturally gravitates toward, that’s the story you’ll get. The one thing we do know is that this parting affects the singer who “feels silly” for saying such things, and wonders if he’s implying the visitor “must come again.” A short song.
Trudy Dies… is a funereal dirge. We know this from the dreary opening mellotron tones and the soft, mournful guitar. But a prettier acoustic sound joins before what sounds like a cow mooing as the lyric starts, Oldham in lonely forlorn quiet mode, singing about death. The topic weighs in heavily, where the narrator-singer, a weary old dude, admits to feeling afraid of death, not his own death as such, but rather, Trudy’s. The song opens with, “I haven’t been sad now / For so many years.” The way Oldham avoids sentiment thereafter is what keeps this song alive. From the first verse, “Death could take you / And that’s just what it do.” When he sings, “The cows were lowing / They cried for your feet” and “The house walls are tighter / The bed it is small,” we sense the lonesome sorry lens-mind this guy’s wearing. Oldham keeps his vocal low and rueful, while the melody is quite pretty. There’s some really nice crisply bent blues notes in the middle as the song briefly falters before the final verse. And so the song is a lament for his partner, and today he won’t be going to work, and at song-end, he decides, “Now I’ll undo / That’s just what I’ll do,” repeating it as if to convince himself. What could that mean—to ‘undo’. Knock yourself off? Relax and unwind? Lose your mind? There’s one very curious verse here—the second, that goes like this: “A bird in my ear / Was beaking away / About all the jewels / He’d come across that day / Jewels in the grass …/ Where the worms used to be.” He makes it sound like this happened before Trudy died, as if it was a portent. There’s both good and bad in that line: finding jewels suggests something positive, but as a substitute for worms, not so positive, because jewels can’t provide nourishment. It makes me think of the King Midas story. King Midas lost everything, and that seems to be the state of mind of this song’s protagonist.
Both “Come In” and “Trudy Dies” appear in the same form on Lost Blues And Other Songs as they do here. They also appear together on a 12″ EP called An Arrow Through The Bitch which simply collects together this single and it’s follow up, “Horses/Stable Will.”