Backlash, Baby

by The Max Levine Ensemble

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Backlash, Baby is available on LP from Rumbletowne Records & Lame-O Records, on CD from Lame-O Records, and on cassette from Broken World Media.

David Combs - Guitar/Vocals
Ben Epstein - Bass/Vocals
Nick Popovici - Drums

Engineering, Post Production, Additional Writing, Instrumentation & Wizardry by Joe Mitra.

Keyboards & Additional Vocals by Jeff Rosenstock.

Additional Vocals by Sheena Ozella.

Mastered by Carl Saff.


released November 20, 2015



Track Name: Backlash, Baby
i'm part of the backlash, baby.
and i'm taking you all out with me.
cuz i've searching for some final restitution
for the desperate and the disparate and oh
i've been waking up in total dissolution
by the boot that's kicking in your front door…

and i'm sick of it all now honey.
and i've been thinking about how all of this… how it began.
how it started with some sense of obligation
but now i'm thinking about more and more,
how it ended with your hands behind your back
they got you lying face down on the floor…

and of you that night,
and the faraway look of remorse in your eyes,
when you crawled by my side
and said "hey life is hard enough without these reminders
that the buzzing in your ears don't stop,
the clicking and the caution and oh,
there was a time when i thought that it was worth it
but i can't say that i do anymore."

you were the frost, the precipitation,
floating down soft and accumulated.
cooling, the shock slowly dissipated
once the temperature dropped.
and you were the demonstration of
our degenerated will
when like herculaneum all covered in ash,
all i could think about was
you in the frost, the precipitation,
floating, that shock slowly dissipated,
cooling into some sort of soft delirium.

and i wake in a fright just feeling further and farther apart.
from the planes taking flight,
and their engines, they roar as they start on up into the sky,
with a pain in my head and an ache in my heart,
as i crawl back to bed, i know i'm finally part,
as the bombs start to drop i know i'm finally part
of the backlash, baby.
Track Name: My Valerian
to the best of my remembrance
it was four years from the day
i rode the bus up to new york city
for some class war themed role play,
and the strangest thing connected
these two separate occasions:
i woke up in transit, panicked and screaming.

i returned from the midwest
and felt this cosmic adulation
for the girl who's wittedness
had made the dauntless seem wasted
and in contrast to the tear gas
and the post traumatic stress
she had a disattached composure,
i felt frantic and helpless.

avena sativa
would you ever be my
would you be my valerian?
(they call her the setting sun.)

kava kava chamomeleon,
boswellia geranium,
they call her the setting sun,
but she's my valerian

it was four years from the day
i'd had that crashing realization,
i was not chasing catharsis,
but contently i was waiting.
and the thing that marked the difference
in these two separate occasions:
i woke up in comfort, blissful and vacant.
Track Name: Sun's Early Rays
we were hiding from the sun's early rays.
we were waiting as the tides rose up higher.
we were hearing of the darkest of days
when the algae would bloom and poison the water.
we were hiding from the sun's early rays.
we were patiently awaiting disaster.
we were settled in and stuck in our ways.
we were laughing in the faces of scholars.
and the clouds were passing by.

we had heard of the tears running down from the faces
of the giants that loomed from the top of the glaciers
when a warning rang out, it was the buzzing of bees
but like the call of the arctic, we just would not believe it,
and the clouds all rolled up, each had something to say
they were raining impertinent knowledge
and we just watched as they passed by.
and then the sunrise filled the sky.
Track Name: Born at the Wrong Time
she plays it cool, but i think she knows.
i sit and wonder if my vulnerability shows,
and we both know not to look too deep into each other,
that we might turn and run from the truths that we discover.

i was born at the wrong time,
i'm living a life, but i know that it's not mine.
and she said "i was born at the wrong time too sometimes."
i was born at the wrong time,
but i'm holding up alright
and i'm walking down that old fault line,
knowing the whole time something's tugging at the bottom of my soul.

i sit and wonder and remember not to open my mouth,
should something slip and i let it all pour out:
a list of things that i'd rather not be thinking about.
so we say what we don't mean,
and hide behind the strangest things,
never to reveal what we're made of.
and we lie to the doctors,
as if our health gets any better
if they don't figure out what's wrong.

i was born at the wrong time,
i'm living a life that i know couldn't possibly be mine.
cause something's tugging at the bottom of my soul... sometimes.
and she said "i was born at the wrong time,
but i'm doing alright.
and i'm walking down that old fault line
knowing the whole time something's tugging at the bottom of my soul..."

something's tugging at the bottom of my soul,
hanging out through a hole in the bottom,
these are the things that i'd just rather not be thinking about.
Track Name: Panoptic Vision
are you going to a private party
remain unseen and catch a watchful eye,
see the etiquette, baby, is watch what you say,
yeah if somebody's listening, hey, well it's not me.
while written up across the overpass
there's some uncoordinated mass abstention
that gets no attention. what nobody mentions
says nothing to me about my disaffection.
while all the creeping advertisers take everything you say and do,
bundle it up, and then they're selling it back to you.

try not to discount the full force of the rhythm.
a suspicious glance, and you find yourself in it.
in panoptic vision, you get what you're giving.
the cop in your head rules an infinite prison.
and the joke's on you if you've been living with it.
i-i-i'm losing patience. i-i'm getting sick.
and the trick of paralysis is you never loosen your grip.
while all the creeping social climbers try all of this year's nom de plumes,
all while the cop in your head is coming up with one for you too.
Track Name: Big Problems, USA
you've always got your place in the sun
when you go down to the beach.
there's girls swinging their hips,
boys having their fun, when you go down to the beach.
and mom and pop have got a spot,
yeah down by the beach.
it's where they grew up,
and it's never been touched, not since,
not so long as the sun's shined down on the beach.

when you're driving your car, down by the beach,
fueled by contamination,
you'll see washing up down by the beach,
a sleeker new sensation
and they're closing up shop,
down by the beach,
now that the clear blue waves have sailed,
now that they're never coming back.
never coming back.
not so long as the sun shines down to the beach.

dark waters on the offshore swelling.
USA, i think we got a little problem.
we overshot and now it's only spreading
down current from some blind expansion.
USA., i think we've gone and crossed a line again.
dark waters only know about spreading.
fool me once and it's a shame i get it,
fool me twice, and it's repeat behavior,
USA., i think we've got a big problem,
USA., we've got some big fucking problems,
won't be long before everybody's got one.
Track Name: Sicker
i thought that i was getting better,
but it turned out i was getting sicker.
you know i can't keep up with this kind of stuff,
the symptoms keep coming quicker.
but i thought that i was getting better…

we come from a long line of thinking that to step in the sand is to sink.
but i wanna stand in the thick of the muck
look around at the fall of the constellations.
and i thought that i was getting better…
but i was standing in the dark and i was shaken from the cold
but i thought i'd forget it, once the placebo kicked in.
and i thought that i was getting better.
but i was getting sicker. sicker. sicker. sicker.
Track Name: Fall of the Constellations
what do i expect?
i think things will get worse.
i've got no hope or faith
in the current pace at which we chart our decline.
what's it about?
if it's about if it's about power games?
then who can play?
who realized how fear can make you paralyzed?
the kind of knots we tie that keep us binded down,
stuck here and grounded,
while the world moves on around us,
spinning on its axis.
if we are the core, the uninformed,
we are the ones who's votes are counted,
and we still do nothing about it.

what do i expect?
some new motivation?
belief in some charmed vision?
reach up and pull the stars out from the sky.
i've dreamt sometimes of this world crashing down
and then built back up from the ground, you'd ask me why
well, mama never told me
to "call the cops when you get into a bind, son,"
she said "use your fucking mind son, use your mind son."
if we are reach out for some new relation
i'd place a condition that the old one be left buried in the ground.
Track Name: Shadow of Death
oh the shadow of death keeps me moving on.
a payment of debts to the earth on which we walk upon.
a moment of rest sees me closer to the carrion.
but the shadow of death keeps me moving on.

as i draw each breath i breath in what's an unsettling calm.
so the shadow of death whispers to me, move along move along.
cuz when you reach out, you reach out to touch me,
that's when i know in my heart that it must be death
that keeps me moving on.

when you turn and look over your shoulder,
that's when i see in your eyes how you know yeah,
when you call out, your voice shakes and echos,
cause the shadow of death stand beside you.
when you reach out, you reach out to touch me,
that's when i know in my heart that it must be death
that keeps me moving on.

no person who seeks to escape it
should ever be treated with trust by the living,
still the shadow of death keeps me moving.
Track Name: American
i was born in 1984.
post vietnam, and then post cold war,
in a world that my parents worked hard for,
i grew up safely and secure,
which all in all, was a cause to celebrate.
we said "mess with us, and you must be crazy,
got my money on the dream team, baby!
we take gold and it comes easy."

and the sentiment was raised in me.
to know proudly, unmistakably
who i am...
and where i stand…

but given time, found myself questioning
a country i saw biding time in a confrontation
guess i never really saw this place as
fighting wars of speculation.
but i didn't see how our nation's history
was not fully revealed to me.
no i didn't see how our "invincibility" was naive,
like our power, “guaranteed.”

and the questions raised up out from me,
in the company of a fading dream,
i asked who am i?
and for what do i stand?

growing up i had a grasp on the concept
of "war" as a thing from the past
that held a place in our history
but never really could apply to me
a decade passed yeah engaged in conflict
a generation came of age under it
raised in fear and uncertainty
but that was never how it felt to me

the first gulf war in my dim recollection
was a time we cheered in celebration
at parades that they held for the troops then
though i never even knew what happened,
bosnia broadcast on tv,
the berlin wall, in my memory,
crumbled beneath our undying belief,
in this, the empire of liberty yeah.

but i was a child brought up in contradiction
i never held these events to be questioned
but the years wore at my confidence
and with time it started making sense:
rejection faced internationally,
it’s all part of the backlash baby
look inside, tell me what you see,
can you tell me now what it means to be
Track Name: You Were a Fighter
got in late last night,
but see, i already knew
you'd been sparing us the truth.
you kept the peace alright,
but i'd seen it through and through,
and since i first laid eyes on you,
i knew you - you were a fighter,
and that you would go down swinging,
but the enemy you couldn't see
was the enemy worth fighting.
we'd been staring down an endless hall.
we'd been yelling back at echos in the cavern.
i know it served you never to let down your guard.
but it took its toll.

i watched you self destruct,
i watched the anger come,
i watched you lash out at some disembodied phantom
and everywhere you looked you saw its face in something
and in it evidence that nothing in your could be done
and you and me,
we had our ups and downs like anyone, i think.
and i'd say that this old routine,
it had its ups and downs, its ups and downs.
and you - you were a fighter.
and you would go down swinging
but the enemy you couldn't see,
you looked so hard that you found it in me.

you - you were a fighter,
and you would go down swinging,
but the enemy you couldn't see
it crept from behind and it struck you inside,
we'd been staring down an endless hall.
we'd been yelling back at echos in the cavern.
i know it served you never to let down your guard.
but it took its toll.
Track Name: Going Home Part II
well you're empty and you're aching and you don't know why,
like a verse outta rhythm with words that strain to rhyme.
well i've heard the leaves that are green will surely turn to brown,
leaving nothing but the dead and the dying in my little town.

but i say "oh no, just wait until the evening comes.
things will get better once we live the winter far behind."

well you got a lot of questions that you know you just can't ask,
because you might offend or lose a friend
or get an answer you don't wanna have.
she says "it's hard when you look for love in all the wrong places."
and i said "yeah, well it's even harder
when you're looking out at all those same old faces."

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