Track by Track: My Best Unbeaten Brother – ‘Pessimistic Pizza’

Posted: by The Editor

On Pessimistic Pizza, My Best Unbeaten Brother triangulates a space between the baritone-led post-punk revival of Alligator, the quirked-up indie pop of Waited Up Til It Was Light, and the math-tinged emo of Charmer. In other words, Pessimistic Pizza is an absolute must-listen for the average Alt reader. It’s a breezy, pleasant listen–seven tracks in about 25 minutes–and, having dropped last week, a great choice for these long, sweltering summer days. Vocalist/guitarist Ben Parker broke down the seven songs on Pessimistic Pizza. Read his thoughts below, and give it a spin while you do.

Time on Our Hands, Spider-Man

When I started writing this, my son was about 4 or 5 and obsessed with superheroes. We were devouring kids’ superhero stuff on the Disney channel, reading old marvel comics together and he was listening to MJ Hibbett and Frankie Machine’s album of superhero theme tunes on repeat. I was pleased; I used to love superheroes too – the picture we used for the artwork for the single is an old photo of me as a young lad reading a Spiderman comic, serving as evidence of this fact. I loved Superman and Spiderman and Iron Man and the Thing. I even shared a surname with Spiderman (and a full name with his dead uncle!) which was nice. It got me thinking. About a time when time went on forever and superhero comics were all that mattered. And about what I would be passing on from my life, memories of playing half-empty gigs, yellowing flyers from the half-empty gigs, piles of records gathering dust in the loft, songs dressed up as landfill indie, but songs that tried to mean something. So this song is about all that I guess: being a dad and being a son, needing a Superman or Spiderman, trying to be a Superman or Spiderman, trying to leave something to someone, weighing up the value of that stuff. A legacy I suppose. A legacy of unplayed records.

Blues Fatigue

This goes back to long before we started the band, in the period in lock-down after the novelty had worn off and when a sense of never-ending drudgery had just started. I hadn’t really touched the guitar in an age and decided to try to work out songs by other people as I’d never done that before really. But I got bored of that and started mucking about on the guitar and making bits up. Before I knew it, I had a new song written. I then played it to the other Ben and somehow convinced him to buy a bass guitar and get back into the idea of playing songs again. Listening back now and thinking about the lyrics, I can see that it’s kind of about the lock-down experience. I can remember someone had written in chalk at the end of the road “we will get through this” which was sort of comforting but also a bit like something from 28 days later or something. I wished I’d documented it by taking photos, but all I have is this song. The song’s also informed by the beginning of Psycho when Janet Leigh’s character has stolen some money and is going off to start a new life with it (hopefully the next act works out better than it worked out for Janet Leigh in the film). Musically I tried to not be too self-conscious about stuff, and even allowed myself to play a guitar solo of sorts.

Extraordinary Times

This one pretty much speaks for itself if you listen to the lyrics. It’s a bit of post-brexit upset. It’s about Morrissey who once meant a great deal to me, and how I find it hard to listen to him now. It’s about the way circumstances and conditions can forge something like the NHS and how this can be steadily devalued. It’s about not wanting people to punch down anymore. I hope it has some hope it in too.

A Song About Double-Crossing a Friend

I had the opening guitar bit for a long long time but couldn’t find anywhere for it to go until suddenly the chorus bit appeared and the song evolved into what it is now. Themes explored: lying to someone about everything being okay when it really isn’t, in a bid to make everything feel okay, trying to work out the meanings to Steve Miller songs to see if they are suitable for a four year old to listen to, realising that in many ways we are still the same people we thought we were years ago.

The Art of Letting Go

I think I wrote this whilst I was reading the excellent “Lessons” by Ian McEwen, which amongst a lot of other things talks about the need to learn to let go of people throughout your life. Came alive when I showed it to the other two and Ben started adding his vocal bits to mine. And my favourite moment when we play this live is the bit at the end of the chorus where the music stops for a moment. I like a good stopping bit in songs. Towards the end of the song I acknowledge that the art of letting go can mean getting rid of stuff you don’t want too, like the way you gradually let go of awkward moments that happened 30 years ago.

Close-up Magic

A very basic guitar line that was very much improved when Ben and Adam added their bits to the song. Second and last use of a distortion pedal, to play the second and last of a sort of guitar solo. Sounds about accepting that life is letting you down and that it’s easy to feel like NPCs that aren’t fleshed out right, in a crowd of fully formed player-characters.

It’s Not Embarrassing to Care About Stuff

This is about a few things: how songs can mean everything, and can stop being owned by the songwriter when they are out in the world, about memories… but mainly about wanting to write songs that mean something and aren’t scared to be unselfconscious in their directness. Like Bruce Springsteen – never been a big fan really but he projects his feelings with real earnestness that connects with the audience. And as a lifelong listener of things like the Fall it’s easy to dismiss this approach as embarrassing. But maybe that attitude isn’t a good one. I dunno.

Pessimistic Pizza is out now.

Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison

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