No one told you not to do it
No one told you you couldn’t
No one told you you needed
To be told not do it
And at the end of the day
No one told you you shouldn’t
I guess it stands to reason
That of all the shades of man
Only a toddler can be a brachiosaur
Towering over all where he stands
Before this life petrifies me
To grownup doldrums and fears
The world’s our monstrous playground
From the carpet to the skies
Enchanted by existence
Untouched by passing years
The floor is always lava
To a gleeful pair of eyes
Looming over the pass
We watched them plan their theft
In turn we blocked the mighty door
To stop their weak advance
Fate was swift and death came fast
‘Til not a single one was left
Squatted on the pantry floor
We ate all those thieving ants
welcome, young man, let me show you the way
to the most glorious prison where you'll ever stay
so great to be a part, so glad to be home
where the aether comforts right down to the bone
don't mind all the noise or the crashing of steel
soon you'll transcend all desire to feel
slowly but surely the chosen come clean
so surrender your will to the machine
iron rods and spinning cranks
bolted and screwed
to the shafts o'er the tanks
that deliver our food
black oil bath
keeps us healthy and strong
while unceasing wrath
forces us along
so warm and secure in this elegant cage
fear not so we’re told the divine holy rage
but we best not slip up and fall through the ladders
though we’re told it’s true nothing we do really matters
iron rods and spinning cranks
anchored and chained
all our wills and our hearts
black diesel oil
keeps us wealthy and wise
brought to a boil
it blots out the eyes
immersed in lyes flesh fractures and splinters
our bodies race exposed through harrowing winters
with bold trepidation we strike the façade
unmasking the fable of a fatalist god
the cold steel now behind me i press into night
hoping and longing for warmth and new sight
with majesty and splendour dawn embraces from above
with th'eternal decree of faith hope and love
Faith Hope and Love
righting wrongs and giving thanks
anchored and secure
in the palms of the Almighty
steadfast and pure
crimson red blood
spilled for the cursed
burns my lips
and quenches my thirst
do you trust me
enough to let me
get real close
to see ev’ry pore
see i have to
rearrange your face
though i've never
held a scalpel before
it should be easy
to keep it open
while the blade quivers
before your eyes
can’t you relax
i don't want to do this
but we gotta move
i don't wanna have to pry
i can't stop the shaking
and i'm starting to doubt
my good eye is
all but blind
since the log's been taken out
Ask me tomorrow about my things
About my trip among mythic triremes.
Alter my texture, answer my trick.
Ascend my tower against marble thick.
Air moves, twirls, and mixes threads
Across mighty tempests, another man treads.
Actions made thought, atoms must tremor
As memories thundered at mental terror.
Auras mask truth as Medusa trembles
At majestic torches atop mystic temples.
Anchoring my tent against mushroom trees,
Animals morph to acquire mayflowers three.
A moment trickles and migrates twice
Along moving turns and meanders thrice.
After miles travelled and music transcends,
Awareness melts to adapt melodic trends.
Amongst moving trees another mad tripper.
Amidst many trails another mind twister.
Ask me tomorrow about my things
As my tongue absorbs magical tea.
Ask me tomorrow about my things
After my tales awaken mirthful times.
Ask me tomorrow.
(Spoken: “All Most There!”)
Taking the logs out of your eyes
To stoke the embers of the fire
You tried to find the speck in mine
But you got lost in the great mire
Oh the speck is you
Oh the speck is you
So if you’re wondering about your size
No amount of scraping
With your stupid little knife
Can make you seem alright
And as you get closer
The speck it will get bigger
You’ll find the eyes of another
Are your own personal mirrors
You’re the log in your own
And the speck in other’s eyes
You’re the log in our own
And the specks in other’s eyes
We’re the log in our own
And the specks in other’s eyes
We’re the log in your own
And the speck in each other’s eyes
Staring into the void
Through a foggy fisheye lens
Wearing the corner of the room
My knees are at rest in the sockets of my skull
Of my skull
It's pretty far from cozy
But hey, at least it's home
I have to get by cheaply
If I expect to get by full
To get by full
What did it do to your soul?
To wring out my spirit
And stamp out my hope
All in the name of the Lord?
How does it pull
On a warm mother's heart
To harrow her son
Like innards from a gourd
Spilled out on the floor
“It's the way that we rise
As bread in the oven.”
But can’t the dough feel
The fire in love?
"This hurts me more
Than it ever hurt you."
It’s a shame you can’t recall
The tears of your youth
But there’s more to suffering
Than heartache and pain
In our journey to Jesus
This ride’s not in vain
What’s done is done
There isn’t any change to meet
You did what you knew
But you loved me incomplete
Like you I'll try to love my children,
To lead them up that hill
But when I fail as all of us do
I’ll remember to pick up my cross and follow you
I’ll remember to pick up my cross and follow you
After his breakthrough 2019 release Sweet Nothings, Jonathan Hodges, the solo artist behind Bomethius, pledged to do something different. While the record aptly explored new styles, displaying Hodges’ remarkable growth as a songwriter and filling out the character of his earnest and hungry but downright tortured alter ego, he feared unwittingly pigeonholing himself as “another sad minimalist” if he didn’t change directions.
Given the borderline baroque complexity of Hodges’ quality homemade recordings, his worries didn’t proceed from the substance of his manic meditations on family, alienation, and indifference, but rather their spirit. He needed to temper his fervor, not with levity, but with laughter — genuine even if seasoned with suffering.
So, he coaxed Dave Hodges, his uncle and closest family member, into working with him to create a more evolved sound. A longtime writer and amateur composer with a brief performing career in the late 1990s, Dave lent his nephew not only his taste and expertise as the family’s resident cognoscente of music and poetry, but also the wisdom afforded by the eighteen additional years he’d spent wrestling with the same preoccupations that have fueled Bomethius’ music from the beginning.
The result was Bomethius’ fourth album, a full-length collaboration called inadiquit. At turns excruciatingly tender and raucously explosive, the record takes as its subject the enduring trauma of a troubled upbringing coupled with misguided devotion to toxic religion. But unlike some of Bomethius’ earlier work, inadiquit remembers the past with greater appreciation for the shadows in the margins and a more keenly stropped insight into the workings of the human heart. With these contributions from the elder Hodges, Jonathan can complement his trademark weltschmerz and angst — that certainly still smolder on inadiquit — with hopeful resolutions borne of maturity and understanding. These eight tracks represent yet another significant leap for Bomethius in terms of compositional prowess, emotional fiber, and production quality.
The record begins with the soothing vocals of “The Old Ones,” where a light right hand on the piano accompanies the opening verse to conjure the voice of a loving mother’s gentle solace. However, beginning with the words “No one told you,” each line riffs on different forms of parental prohibition and punishment that have prevailed to define how a child views his place in the world. Verse by verse, the song piles on layers of voices and instruments to morph into a triumphal celebration of a toddler’s madcap mischief and boundless imagination for freedom, where transgression takes on existential significance for the adult trapped in misty reminiscence. After peaking, though, it slowly drifts back down and returns to the opening chords, now trepid and tinged with melancholy, like the mournful recollection of an invaluably precious gift that’s been forever stolen. It’s a musical dead ringer for saudade, the famously untranslatable Portuguese word that denotes a profoundly emotional nostalgia for something that’s gone for good and may have never even existed in the first place. Along with the hapless victims of the caper (an army of ants trying to steal food from the family pantry), the song itself becomes a metaphor for what can happen to a child’s formidable capacity to create and nurture his own happiness — crushed and eaten, not so much by the world, but by parents who’ve convinced themselves they’re doing you a favor.
Even at just the second track, “The Machine” is arguably the centerpiece, introducing the religious hang-ups that inform the rest of the record. Over the course of seven minutes, dramatic transitions bind together the song’s varied styles — everything from clean, tender fingerpicking to a classic Pink Floyd organ and saxophone solo, to a refrain of Renaissance- style polyphony. With a catalogue of vivid figures, the song uses an archetypal machine as an extended metaphor not just for the twisted faith of predeterminism, but also for the experience of growing up within its confines and sincerely believing it to be correct. Evocative verses teem with references to mechanistic brutality — rods, cranks, shafts, tanks, and baths of oil and lye — all formidable symbols for the enduring confusion and agony that attend sincere devotion to a heartless deity’s system of fatalistic salvation (where “nothing we do really matters”). At the same time, though, the song shows how such daily existential dread and anxiety morph a person into the very thing he or she most fears. In a nod to the Marxist concept of false consciousness, the addled adolescent, taught to feel “so warm and secure" in this “most glorious prison,” himself becomes a machine in turn.
Before resolving its dark-night-of-the-soul narrative with a jailbreak that begins with rebellion and ends in sacrifice, “The Machine” also makes the record’s first of many allusions to chemical sedation with a tight double entendre. The “aether” that “comforts right down to the bone” in the song’s opening verse definitely points to the unattainable enlightenment such a system presses its tortured adherents to pursue — like the will-o’-the-wisp, always just a bit farther away. But it’s also a straightforward description of a wretch, spurred by persistent doubt and self-loathing, drowning his mind with anesthetic.
With the two “Eye Surgery” tracks, the songwriting duo run with Jesus’ metaphor for judging others in the Sermon on the Mount. Together, the double feature imbues the prospect of “taking the log out of your own eye” to “take out the speck” in your brother’s with the existential doubt and terror that should perhaps always accommodate it. In part I, plaintive harmonies accompany a piano’s plodding left hand to narrate the plight of a reluctant surgeon convinced he must carry on with the procedure (“It should be easy to keep it open / While the blade quivers before your eyes”). Nevertheless, his persuasions can’t keep him from losing his nerve as the undertaking forces him to acknowledge his “good eye is all but blind since the log’s been taken out.” No longer blinkered by his own flaws and hypocrisy, he can now appreciate the deplorable behavior that has characterized his life and can no longer bring himself to judge anyone. At the same time, though, the song speaks to a deeper truth about human weakness that Jesus’ directive implies: We can only see through the lens of our own shortcomings. If we lose that, we can’t see at all.
If part I embodies how most attempts to judge others would go if everyone took Jesus’ words seriously, part II captures what most judgments really are: deflected self-reproach and repressed guilt. A soulful barroom ballad, the second “Eye Surgery” repeats a steady phrase on the piano alongside a rollicking melody that rises and falls like a storm-tossed ship. The opening verses appear to describe the obtuse prig who deprecates himself only to ballast the more important work of condemning others for his own faults (“No amount of scraping / With your stupid little knife / Can make you seem alright ... You’ll find the eyes of another / Are your own personal mirrors”). The changing pronouns in the track’s closing refrain apply that reproof to everyone, however, undermining the song’s earlier criticisms (“We’re the log in your own / And the speck in each other’s eyes”). By accepting a kind of universal responsibility for human weakness, part II reinforces the conclusion of part I that sight is nothing but blindness.
The windswept instrumental “Improvisation No. 1” meanders through ten minutes of rich emotion, quoting Mozart and Chopin among shifting movements of grief, anger, doubt, contrition, grit, and escape. At once hopeful and despondent, its many voices capture the kind of internal monologue and spiritual inventory that attend the distress of realizing the undeniable cruelty of life. Refusing to resolve, the composition simply shuts down in a moment of flight, its silence ushering in the speechless heartbreak of all the unsettled echoes left to ring and fester in a young mind.
Bomethius’ most sonically advanced production, “A Mazing Tonic” adapts an unusual poem written by Dave to create a potent narrative about the quest for enlightenment through psychedelics. The author calls the text an “initialistic acrostic,” where every line comprises sets of three words, each of which repeats the initials of the hallucinogen AMT (as in the opening line: “Ask Me Tomorrow About My Things”).
With a seductive, cyclical melody, Jonathan’s vocals roll among a dancing piano, clean guitar licks, and layers of chary harmonies. Steeped in references to open-eye visuals and closed-eye phantoms, the verses wend through the disjecta membra of repeated descents into the torn fabric of his own mind. In search of truths he can’t prize from his normal life, the songwriter peers into the mystical realms of the subconscious and whatever lies beyond it but finds no lasting satisfaction among the ensorcelling visions and epiphanies he chases and so desperately longs to decipher and absorb again and again.
Regardless, despite all the stark imagery, this is no mere bad trip. Though spliced with moments of ecstasy and exclamation, an unmistakable fatigue suffuses the younger Hodges’ vocals. Like an eager but doomed wayfarer losing the thread within the labyrinth, the rhymes lose conviction and stamina as the song’s descriptions of the pilgrim deteriorate. “Another man treads” becomes “another mad tripper” and then dissolves into “another mind twister.” As “awareness melts” — which provides the outlet his broken spirit craves while voiding the ostensible aim of these ventures — the track suddenly swarms with freak-out distortion, feedback, and dissonance before the pensive guitar interlude that follows.
As this sublime revelation continually eludes his grasp to recede just a little farther off, he pretends to deflect his mounting anxiety with the febrile hope he can wring some entertaining stories out of his travails (“after my tales awaken mirthful times”). That way, he can pass off his slakeless thirst for illumination as the recreational stunts of a pleasure-seeking reveler. Even these tales, however, must wait until tomorrow because he’s still incapable of countenancing the state of his life. But the forecast for tomorrow is the same: “Ask me tomorrow about my things / As my tongue absorbs magical tea.” By this point, it’s clear the “things” that bookend the song don’t refer to his possessions or personality so much as the effects of the psychedelic exploits that have come to define him.
Crashing percussion drowns out the melody before giving way to the distorted sounds of a weary traveler — heavy footsteps trudging through a desolate hinterland as a voice doggedly but erroneously cries out the final, but forever indefinite, words: “All most there.” Just as the structure of the acrostic points to the warped way he views the world around him — where everything is forced to conform to a procrustean pattern — the broken spellings of the poem’s title and last line stress the cracks in his crusade to unlock the mysteries that plague his soul.
The harrowing title track follows with a potent jeremiad against the enduring heartbreak and victimization that attend religiously motivated child abuse. With the voice of a young adult who’s flown the coop, the opening verses seethe with irony to describe the depression and squalid living situation of a man who’s been robbed of his ability to grow up. Racked with shame and alienated from the world as well as himself, he surveys his life with wry contempt for what he’s become — cowed into a shell, collapsed in the corner of his barren hovel, his kneecaps “at rest” as they bore into the sockets of his skull. As the song’s most barbed line suggests, he’s also likely coming down from an otherwise ceaseless supply of deliriants. “I have to get by cheaply / If I expect to get by full,” he sings, where “full” points not to nourishment but to an insatiable appetite for sedation to palliate the inadequacy and self- loathing that a tormented childhood breeds.
From thence, the stanzas detail the damage down, where the song’s title comes to describe both the way the child was reared and the way the child views himself, rent like “innards from a gourd / Spilled out on the floor.” With raw heartache, the song challenges the hackneyed parental refrains (such as “This hurts me more / Than it ever hurt you”) that can never assuage a child’s incapacity to equate the source of his overwhelming anguish and fear with the people who gave him life and swore to protect him.
The record closes with the plaintive instrumental, “Yoke.” With the uncle on piano and the nephew on violin, the two melodies summon all the sensations of violated hope and sorrowful remembrance but filter them through a lens of healing. Although that lens may appear dim and cloudy at times, with grumbling clouds and leaden palls obstructing the view, the outlook is nevertheless promising. As the melodies dovetail into their final rest, it becomes clear the demons of the past — while perhaps still lurking in the darker recesses of the mind — are at least on their way, one by one, to the slow, satisfying exorcism they deserve.
After all its existential audits, inadiquit adjourns with a profound acceptance of the way of the cross — weakness, deliverance, and love that overcomes enmity and affliction. That yoke may not always be easy and light, but it tills the record’s devastating indictments into the solace and resolution of unsolicited forgiveness that only the long process of recovery can yield.
released April 13, 2020
Upon hearing this album Cynthia remarked: “It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.” And that is the highest praise Dave and I are willing to accept.
Special thanks to:
Travis Carroll for 1) suggesting that this project be a full length release as opposed to a single; 2) generously allowing me to record most of this album with his equipment; 3) being the first line of review and conversation for everything we wrote and recorded. This album
wouldn’t even exist without you — you really saved the day.
Reed Mullican for being long suffering with my noisy recording and writing habits. Of the many terrible suggestions you’ve shared over the course of our stint as roommates, the fact that you suggested the trumpet solo on Eye Surgery II will forever redeem almost everything.
Matt Shaw for being long-suffering, and professional to the nth degree. Your performances on the record are awesome. Anyone looking for drums, mixing, or mastering, go hire Matt!
Jeff Tullis for taking the time to throw down some bass on the fly. Ya’ phat dumb.
Ricky Roshell for being THE MAN. Y’all hear that sax solo tho? Thanks for getting everything put together so expeditiously, and for capturing my vision — you made it “sound like a plan!”
Chris Stubblefield for being absolutely ridiculous. For the rest of my days, that trumpet solo will never fail to produce instantaneous joy in the depths of my soul. It is the perfect picture of our friendship, and I will always treasure it. Love you, man.
Kevin Hanlon for his friendship and conversation. Though we parted ways as this project was just beginning, our time together influenced my writing a great deal. You gave me the confidence to explore new and potentially unsafe ideas. Thank you.
Carl Sullivan for being so generous with his time and talents. Your work on the front and back cover was outstanding!
Benjamin Hodges for providing such excellent copy for the album. Your insight and tireless pursuit of excellence brought an entirely new level of depth and coherence to this project. You will never know how much you have contributed to my trajectory as a person and artist. I am extremely grateful for our friendship.
Nate Zivin for being sloppy, unprofessional, frustrating, and ridiculous. Just kidding. Your drum performances and your mixing suggestions enhanced (at times even saved) the landmarks of this album. It’s incredibly cool to think back to the first day we met in class piano in high school. I interacted with you for about 10 minutes, but I remember going home and telling my family that I had just met Dave reincarnated — and here you are on this album! Dave and I are both extremely proud to have you on this record for two main reasons: you are extremely talented, and incredibly unhelpful. Many of your ideas and performances were as awesome as the fact that we actually got you to do them. Now you will receive the prize. Be on the lookout for a truck-full of flapjacks — they will arrive in great quantity and without warning.
The intonation issues on this album exist for the sole purpose of pissing off Dr. Mead.
Bomethius is the solo project of Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Jonathan Hodges. A capable
pianist, guitarist, and vocalist, Hodges has also studied the violin since he was 3 years old. With Bomethius, he draws from his classical training for a mischievous brand of baroque pop that echoes the sounds of Andrew Bird, Elliott Smith, and Randy Newman....more