Cats Laughing on Amazon as MP3s!

June 14, 2008

To see the list, click here!



April 26, 2008

Now that all of the Cats Laughing songs are on last.fm and Amazon, I probably won’t be uploading more to the Internet Archive, at least, not until I have more time or their uploading software allows for batch uploads. But I will be looking into other ways to make MP3s available, so watch for more news!


available MP3s (to date)

April 11, 2008

Here’s what’s currently available:

the first album

The Enchantment

Gloomy Sunday

Signal to Noise

More Thumbscrews

Another Way to Travel

Bright Street Beachhouse Back in Business Blues

The Undertoad

Black Knight’s Work


Another Way to Travel

April 5, 2008

  1. Bright Street Beachhouse Back in Business Blues (© S. Brust & E. Bull)
  2. The Undertoad (© Lojo Russo)
  3. Sing Out (© A. Stemple)
  4. Nottamun Town (Trad.)
  5. See How the Sparrow Flies (© S. Brust)
  6. For It All (© Emma Bull)
  7. Elijah (© S. Brust & A. Stemple)
  8. Wear My Face (© E. Bull & A. Stemple)
  9. Stars Overhead (© A. Stemple & S. Brust)
  10. Black Knight’s Work (© John M. Ford & E. Bull)
  11. Draw the Curtain (© S. Brust, A. Stemple, & E. Bull)


Scene 1

A darkened stage (too small). Bill’s equipment is already in place. Rest of band enters in disarray and suede as lights come up. Dave StensHoel enters, with fiddle.

Lojo: What shall we start with?

Steve: I like songs with long titles.

Bill: It’s going to be a disaster.

Bright Street Beachhouse Back In Business Blues

Pretty Tommy Belmont was shooting up in back
Fixing up his hair and digging through his pack
He said, “All I want is you to cut me a little slack”
He never even knew what I was saying.
Angela the dancer said she never heard the shot
Maybe she was lying, and maybe she was not
She keeps ’em coming in, and that keeps the party hot
She says there isn’t any point in praying.

Chorus: There must be another way to travel
There must be another card to choose
I’ll tell the story straight, and hope it’s not too late
For the Bright Street Beachhouse Back in Business Blues.

Kansas Bobby Sanchez responded to the racket
Messed up pretty Tommy and he tossed away the packet
Got an ugly stain on his yellow racing jacket
But didn’t let it slow him on the ride
The Gypsy took the side of Mandy the bartender
Said, “If I can’t screw the deal, at least I can defend her.”
But there was no place left to run, and no place left to send her
She didn’t know that he was on her side.

They all went back to business like they hadn’t even seen it
Except for Kansas Bobby, who had to stop and clean it
He said, “Don’t raise the ante unless you really mean it.”
He never came back from the promenade
The Gypsy in the Cadillac made a friend of Mandy
Emptied out his pockets and he filled them up with candy
The club is always busy like the beach is always sandy
I’m still looking for my corner in the shade.

Lojo and Emma: Vocals.

Dave StensHoel snorts, brandishes fiddle, and exits.

Scene 2

Lojo: Is it time for a literary reference?

Emma: Sure. Hey, John!

John Irving: Sorrow floats.

The Undertoad

The morning sun is streaming in through my pain.
There’s a song playing on the radio, stirring memories of me and you.
A smile is spreading across my face but it’s fading slowly, as my thoughts collide.
Now the clouds are moving in and it looks like rain.

Chorus: there’s something in the air today
i can’t push it, i can’t drive it away
there’s a sign up the road
And my body’s bein’ dragged

The T.V. is blasting with the news of the day.
Rockets and missiles and wars goin’ off.
She said he said who shot who.
Break-ins and freak-outs, high society, mothers and fathers and a baby who cried.
I remembered to tell you but forgot what I wanted to say.

Out in the light of the dark city scene.
Pushin’ and shovin’ and blowin’ their horns, only the pigeons are enjoying the view.
The concrete is cold and the street is alive but the only thing you hear is that voice inside.
So you step off the curb . . .

there’s something in the air tonight
i can see it but it’s just out of sight
there’s a sign up the road
and my body’s bein’ dragged

there’s something in the air tonight
i can see it but it’s just out of sight
there’s a sign up the road . . .

Lojo: Lead vocals.
Emma and Lojo: Harmonies.

Scene 3

Adam: Hey, Bill, you got a .013?

Bill sighs, goes upstage right to guitar case, and rummages through spare strings.

Bill: What are these little pieces of paper?

Steve: Uh . . . those are . . . uh, they’re mine.

Sing Out

Chorus: Sing out, sing out, the dawn’s come
The shadows have fled from the sun
Daylight shines on your free and easy mind
The darkness covers mine.

I walked down to the river
The moon swam to meet me there
I dove deep in naked freedom
Didn’t mean to come up for air.

The sun burns my eyes to ashes
Moonlight covered them before
I was anchored, floating free
Now I’m washed up on the shore.

Floating now, I touch the reason
Grasp it firmly in my hand
The river runs to meet the sea
The sun it burns to meet the sand.

Adam: Lead vocal.
Emma and Lojo: Harmonies.

Scene 4

Emma: This one’s from the singing of Jean Ritchie, off the Folk Box collection – thanks, Fred Haskell.

Lojo: Yes, but what does it mean?

Nottamun Town

In Nottamun Town not a soul would look up
Not a soul would look up, not a soul would look down
Not a soul would look up, not a soul would look down
To show me the way to fair Nottamun Town.

I rode a gray horse, was called a gray mare
Gray mane and gray tail, green stripe down her back
Gray mane and gray tail, green stripe down her back
And not a hair on her that wasn’t coal black.

She stood so still she threw me to the dirt
She tore my hide and she bruised my shirt
From saddle to stirrup I mounted again
And on my ten toes I rode over the plain.

Saw the king and the queen and a company more
A-walkin’ behind and a-ridin’ before
Saw a stark-nekkid drummer a-beatin’ a drum
With his hands in his bosom come marching along.

I sat down on a hard, hot, cold-frozen stone
Ten thousand stood ’round me and yet I’s alone
Took my hat in my hands for to keep my head warm
Ten thousand got drownded that never was born.

Emma: Lead vocal.
Lojo and Adam: More vocals.

Scene 5

Steve: I’ve got a great Serbian rhythm for the next one . . .

Adam (shakes head): Ditch it. It’s gotta sound like this.

Steve: I can’t make it sound like that. Where’s Adnan?

Robin Anders enters, with African cowbells and woodblock.

See How the Sparrow Flies

Fifteen Janes come through the door, better not ask ’em why,
Think this place can’t hold no more, see how the sparrow flies.
Twenty-five Jims talking sweet, better not ask ’em why,
Next morning they’re all back on the street, see how the sparrow flies.

Chorus: See how the sparrow, see how the sparrow flies
See how the sparrow, see how the sparrow flies.

See that sparrow ’way down low, better not ask him why,
He’s down here wondering where to go, see how the sparrow flies.
See that eagle ’way up there, better not ask him why,
Got no worry, got no care, see how the sparrow flies.

See that bum lookin’ for a dime, better not ask him why,
Costs a dollar just to find the time, see how the sparrow flies.
If anyone asks who sang this song, better not ask him why
Tell him the Cats and we’re a long time gone, see how the sparrow flies.

Lojo: Lead vocal, mandolin.
Adam: Harmony, wet bird.
Emma: Harmony, rippa-rippa fish (guiro?).
Bill: Dry bird.

Robin, smiling his “you have to play the spaces” smile, gathers up his cowbells and woodblock and exits.

Scene 6

Emma (picking up a black Bell full-coverage helmet): This is my anthem for headlong post-adolescent romantics.

Bill: Sounds like a beer commercial to me.

For It All

Fantasies of violence, breaking bottles on the wall
Hungry for the motion, for the action, for it all.
Road noise on the night street, see the taillights through the blinds
Out there where your dreams slide toward the night side, for it all.

Chorus: For it all, for it all, what you’re aching for
When the magic’s real and like a fire in the sky
When the deal calls for a sacrifice
and you know you cannot die
For the edge the best ones live on, for it all.

You want to be a hero, with the ax about to fall
You’d buy it for the love and for the glory, for it all.

You want to dress in black and lose your heart beyond recall
Hunt a dream through rain and thunder, on your honor, for it all.

Bridge: In your head, no car is fast enough
In your heart, no love is true
Would it ruin all your solitary fancies
If I tell you that it isn’t only you?

Keep your ankles off the tailpipe, keep your bootheels off the street
We’ll hit the throttle, we’ll hit the redline
We’ll find the edge
We’ll make it sweet
We’ll go for it all.

Emma: Lead vocal.
Lojo: Harmony.
Adam: Tommy’s 750cc Les Paul.


Scene 1

During this scene, the furniture will move whenever it seems consistent with its character’s motivation.

Adam: I’ve got some changes for a gospel song.

Emma: I’ve got a King James Bible.

Steve: Try the Old Testament; it’s bloodier.

Lojo: Bill, put in some big church organ at the end.

Robin Anders enters upstage with tambourine.

W.B. Yeats: And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Bill: Can I go home now?


Listen to the story of Elijah,
Well the ravens, they brought him bread
The ravens they brought him flesh, now
And this is what the prophet Elijah said.

You listen to those false prophets
You don’t listen to what I say
Well, it’s gonna get dry now
‘Cause I’m sending all the rain away.

Ahab said to Elijah,
“Do you trouble Israel?”
Elijah said, “Bring the people ’round,
Bring them to Mount Carmel.”

“Pick yourself out a bullock,
Me, I’ll do the same,
And we’ll lay them on the wood
And wait here for the flames.”
Now the fire, it didn’t come later
And the fire, it didn’t come soon
And they asked for the fire in the morning
They asked all the way to noon.

Elijah he said to the people,
“People, I want you all to gather ’round.
Walk with me to the altar.”
But the altar it was broke down.

With stones he built that altar
And he filled the trench with wood
And he filled the barrels with water
And the people saw it was good.

Then Elijah, he started a-praying
While the people gathered ’round
And the fire, it started burning
And the rain, well, the rain came down.

Elijah took all those false prophets
Those who didn’t know the Lord
They took all those false prophets
And they put ’em to the sword.

Lojo: Lead and harmony.
Emma: Harmony.

Robin sets his tambourine aside.

Scene 2

Robin Anders sets Saudi Arabian doumbek on his knee. Tommy Roberts takes off his headphones, turns the studio monitors up loud.

Tommy: Adam, is that your guitar making that sound?

Adam: Nope. It’s my truck.

Tommy: You know Bill’s trumpax – saxaphorn – guitax – whatever? I took care of it.

Wear My Face

You told me I was pretty
I can’t believe that’s true
The little dears you left me for
They all look just like you
Ugly is as ugly does
Are you telling me what to do?

Chorus: Wear my face, you can have it for a week
Wear my face, aren’t the cheekbones chic?
Wear my face, see how people look at you
See how much my face can do.

When we go out together
I wear my shades and hat
For fear somebody might admire me
And you won’t stand for that
If every eye’s not stuck on you
Then your whole afternoon falls flat.

I’ve seen the way you look away
When you think I might see
You say I scare you silly
That’s reacting sensibly
Why should people look at you
When they could look at me?

Emma: Lead vocal.
Lojo: Harmony.
Adam: Piano.

Robin the Drumlord asks the drum spirits to send another doumbek.

Scene 3

Robin receives Turkish doumbek from dark hooded figure.

Steve: The inspiration for this song may be found in V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 38, p. 130 (Conspectus of Hegel’s Science of Logic).

Adam: Then again, maybe not.

Stars Overhead

Look into a deep, dark pool, tell me what you see,
Stars overhead
Echo of a midnight sky, branches of a dream,
Turnings of a maze
Ripples on the surface, currents underneath
Ripples on the surface,
Stars overhead.

Drink from a deep, dark pool, tell me what you taste,
Bitter mountain streams
Flows like nectar past your lips, lying there in wait,
Falls from your hand
Ripples on the surface, currents underneath
Ripples on the surface,
Stars overhead.

Bridge: Cold mountain water, coming from below
Who are you to ask, and who am I to know?
Leaping in the darkness, laughing in the wind
Look down, look down, look down, look down,
See the stars again.

Dive into a deep, dark pool, tell me what you feel
The world you left behind
Smooth and warm as life
The living and the dead
Stars overhead.
Ripples on the surface, currents underneath
Ripples on the surface, currents underneath
Ripples on the surface, currents underneath
Ripples on the surface
Stars overhead.

Adam: Lead vocal, acoustic guitar.
Lojo: Harmony, mandolin.
Emma: Harmony.

Robin picks up Turkish doumbek, bows, and exits.

Scene 4

Steve: Why does he call him a black knight? He always wears red and white.

Lojo: That was explained in the three verses Emma made him take out because she couldn’t remember all the words as it was.

Emma: Did anybody rent the orchestra?

Black Knight’s Work

Bad blood and risky business, high affairs that never see the sun
Cold steel and loaded pistols, someone’s got to see the work gets done
When the black knight moves you can taste the trouble in the air
You can hear the city talking like it doesn’t care
Between the darkness and the light, somebody’s will gets done tonight
Before the black knight moves again, you’d better not be there.

Back streets and lonely places where you do the kind of things you do
Black cloaks and hidden faces, when we gonna get a look at you?
When the black knight moves you can feel the darkness coming on
You can hear the city hide itself away till dawn
Between the knife edge and the skin, maybe you’ll see the fix go in
Before the black knight moves again, you better be long gone.

No words, you keep your silence,
people talk in whispers where you are
I hear the sounds of violence, tell me brother,
where’d you get those scars?
When the black knight moves you can feel a chill across the board
You can hear the city asking what he’s looking for
Between the living and the dead, you just might see a flash of red
Before the black knight moves again, you’d better see no more.

Bridge: You’re a man who knows his business
You can see the master plan
And you play your own position
You’re the instrumental man
But would the whole world come down crashing
Would the highborn fall as well
If you kicked the table over and sent the pieces all to hell?

Dark deeds and secret matters, you can fix it but it doesn’t last
Bright flash, the mirror shatters, who’s reflected in the broken glass?
When the black knight moves you can feel a hand disturb the game
You can hear the city asking for the white pawn’s name

Between the black squares and the white
there’s gonna be a sacrifice tonight
Before the black knight moves again, you better do the same.

Emma: Lead vocal.
Lojo: Harmony.

Scene 5

Adam: Bill, uh, you got another .013?

Tommy: Sometimes it just up and breaks for the barn.

Emma: Guys, can I use that word I learned when I was writing Falcon?

Steve: If Adam can pronounce it.

Draw the Curtain

Draw the curtain, put a candle on the sill
Let me take myself away
For we have years and days and hours left to kill
And the means to make them pay.

Ask my brother to tell me when the sun is high
Have my sister tell him how
For they have tied me down and taken out my eyes
So I won’t be crying now.

Draw the circle, put a candle at its heart
Lay my wealth upon the pyre
The year is done and now another takes my part
In the turning of the gyre.

The stars I followed are all fallen to the ground
Pulling shadows to the air
You may call my name and gently lay me down
But you’ll never keep me there.

Hold the rope and tie it gently to the tree
Thirteen twists above the noose
There’s a hanged man who’s crying to be free
But I will not cut him loose.

Draw the curtain, put a candle on the sill
Let me take myself away

For we have years and days and hours left to kill
And the means to make them pay.


Steven Brust: drums
Emma Bull: vocals
Bill Colsher: guitar, synthesizer
Lojo Russo: bass, vocals
Adam Stemple: guitar, vocals

With special appearances by

Robin Anders: percussion
David StensHoel: fiddle

Erratum: When playing selected cuts or songs out of sequence, please note that the horn squeal at the beginning of “Stars Overhead” ought actually to be attached to the end of “Wear My Face.” Sorry ‘bout that.

All songs arranged by Cats Laughing
Recorded and mixed at Underground Studio
Engineered by Tommy Roberts and Adam Stemple
Special drum recording assistance from Ed Ackerson
Produced by Cats Laughing and Tommy Roberts
DAT mastering and manufacture midwifery by Entercor Studio

Art by Terri Windling
Computer color on the original album cover by Emma Bull and Tom Juntunen
Design by E.B. and Bubba the Mac
To the Amateur Roadies Union and the Psychoactive Dance Interpretive Troupe: happy trails, guys.
Thank you, Richard Tatge, Lord of Lights; thanks, Billy “Buts” Yeats for the cool name; and most of all . . .
Thanks, Jane.

Lesz Csapás.


the first album, a.k.a. the basement tape, a.k.a. reissue, a.k.a. bootleg issue

April 5, 2008

  1. The Enchantment (© E. Bull). Lead vocal: Emma.
  2. Gloomy Sunday. Lead vocal: Lojo.
  3. Half-Dollar Blues (© S. Brust & A. Stemple). Lead vocal: Adam.
  4. Facade (©  Lojo Russo). Lead vocal: Lojo.
  5. Tellers of Tales (© S. Brust & A. Stemple). Vocals: Adam, Lojo, and Emma.
  6. The Good Stuff (© Lojo Russo). Lead vocal: Lojo.
  7. Back Door (© A. Stemple). Lead vocal: Adam.
  8. Signal to Noise (© E. Bull). Lead vocal: Emma.
  9. More Thumbscrews (© S. Brust). Lead vocal: Emma.

All songs arranged by Cats Laughing.

The Cats:

Steven Brust, drums, doumbek, tambourine, ice cubes.
Emma Bull, harmonica, sine wave, vocals.
Bill Colsher, electric guitar, guitar synthesizer, scary chords.
Lojo Russo, bass, leviathan music, vocals.
Adam Stemple, electric and acoustic guitar, match, vocals.

Photos by Will Shetterly and Geri Sullivan.
Photographic weirdification by Em, Big Bubba, and Photoshop.
Original 4-track engineering by Steve Schmidt in Brust’s ex-basement.
Digital remastering by John Muldoon at Entercor and Gark Studios.

Thank you, Jane and David.

For more information about the various editions of this album, see FAQ #1: “The First Album” or “Bootleg Issue”?.


FAQ #1: “The First Album” or “Bootleg Issue”?

February 14, 2008

In response to a query about the number of song tracks on Cats Laughing: The First Album from cafepress.com and the number on the “Bootleg Issue” from Greenman Review, Emma Bull wrote:

Aha! Don’t panic–I think the only thing at work here is a difference in liner notes and track delineation. Since the first CD was made from the original cassette, where there were no electronic markers for the beginnings and ends of songs, things can get kinda hairy. But here’s the Official Conception:”Back Door” ends. Then the strange ambient noise-jam starts up that we developed, when playing live, to suggest a radio being tuned across a series of frequencies that weren’t coming in well enough to identify–sort of a “driving across the middle of nowhere late at night and getting things on your radio that might be signals from outer space” feel. That’s “FMera” (which we didn’t name until we recorded it), which is really just the intro to “Signal to Noise.” Since we were way into structure, we had to go out as we came in, so “Signal to Noise” ends with more space-jam noise, which is “FMera (reprise)”. The album ends in a mighty doom-and-gloom crash with “More Thumbscrews,” the song that starts with the lyrics, “The trees bowed to greet me as I passed by.”If it helps, on my iTunes I don’t have “FMera” and “FMera (reprise)” broken out as separate tracks at all–they’re just the beginning and end of “Signal to Noise,” since we always began and ended the song, more or less successfully, with space jam. That allowed us the option of jamming into it from some other song, or out of it into something else.

Other amusing facts about that album: It’s been called “Cats Laughing,” “Reissue,” and “Bootleg Issue.” It was recorded on a four-track cassette recorder in Steve Brust’s basement, and mixed in someone’s living room, with effects created by a couple of guitar effects “stomp boxes” and a home stereo equalizer. The “tkh-HISSS” noise that starts “FMera” (or “Signal to Noise”) was Adam striking a match close to the microphone.