War Stories (2003)

TRACK LIST
1. Okinawa 
2. Shellshock 
3. Kwangju 
4. Blowback 
5. Ack! 
6. The End of Chivalry 
7. Red 
8. Landmine 
9. United Fruit Co. 
10. Credo


CREDITS
MB, vocals; Matt Kite, guitar, organ, vocals, percussion; Tommy Thew, guitar, loops, vocals; Chris Gunn, bass, vocals; Dave Warburton, drums, percussion. Produced by Scott Ross and TWBA. Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Scott Ross at Elliott Bay Recording Co. (Seattle, WA). Cover photo courtesy of Dawn Birr. Music by TWBA. Lyrics by Matt Kite. Dedicated to the memory of James "Gunny" Rigdon, 1948-1994. © 2003 Gargantuan Records/TWUBBA Music (ASCAP). 


REVIEWS
"Matt Kite is another Seattle songwriter who has made some drastic changes. War Stories, the sixth album from Kite's The Whole Bolivian Army, is packed with intense polemics. Kite says he was inspired by research on the Vietnam War and interviews with veterans he has been doing for a book. The vivid album begins with 'Okinawa,' telling of a rape by U.S. soldiers from the victim's perspective. More often, War Stories comes from the perspective of the grunts, and Kite occasionally approaches Tim O'Brien, who wrote The Things They Carried and other unflinching fiction steeped in Vietnam. O'Brien would appreciate some of Kite's writing here ('I wake the day the shooting stops/the door, the Fourth, the engine drops/I wake the only way I can/the eyes, the eyes, I killed a man')." 
— Tom Scanlon, Seattle Times, June 20, 2003 

"On War Stories, The Whole Bolivian Army creates political music as though they have been doing it for years... With up-tempo songs like 'Okinawa,' the serious and moving 'Shellshock,' and 'Kwangju,' the band assumes the identities of a Japanese woman, a US veteran and a South Korean, respectively... In the end, some of the tunes are almost danceable and you can’t help but feel guilty dancing to a song like 'Shellshock.' Certain songs really stay with you, mostly due to the lyrics. For the politically active or interested, The Whole Bolivian Army offers their political opinions for conversation, without feeling as though they have been forced upon you, and created a decent album from it at the same time." 
— Corinne, PlugInMusic.com, Spring 2003 

"Enclosed in the liner notes is a list of historical reading that addresses U.S. foreign policy, post-World War II... 'I wanted to have a historical reference and include the reading list in hopes that some of the fans would do their own research,' [songwriter Matt Kite] said. During the conception of War Stories, Kite was also ghostwriting a novel on the Vietnam War for which he conducted 'intense interviews' and heard 'heartbreaking stories,' he said. The research and reading material somehow found its way on TWBA's latest release." 
— Christina Twu, Western Front, Oct. 14, 2003


READING LIST
Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala, Stephan Schlesinger & Stephen Kinzer. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1990. Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, Chalmers Johnson. New York: Henry Holt and Co./Owl Books, 2000. Farewell Darkness: A Veteran's Triumph over Combat Trauma, Ron Zaczek. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994. In the Realm of a Dying Emperor, Norma Field. New York: Pantheon Books, 1991. Korea's Place in the Sun, Bruce Cumings. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1997. Kwangju Diary: Beyond Death, Beyond the Darkness of the Age, Lee Jai-eui. Los Angeles: UCLA Asian Pacific Monograph Series, 1999. Okinawa: Cold War Island, Chalmers Johnson. Cardiff, CA: Japan Policy Research Institute, 1999. A Rumor of War, Philip Caputo. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1977. Vietnam: A History, Stanley Karnow. New York: Penguin Books, 1997. War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Chris Hedges. Public Affairs, Perseus Group, 2002.

Okinawa 

I suffer the same as you 
I swallow the same air you blacken 
I follow my instincts 
when I close my eyes and listen 
OK, Joe, you tough guy 
let me go 
OK, Joe, you big guy 
when you going home? 

you crater the earth that feeds us 
you puncture the silence with cannons 
you force me to hold still 
while you empty your ammunition 
OK, Joe, you sweaty 
let me go 
OK, Joe, you hairy 
when you going home? 

you sent the man 
you sent the man 
you pulled me down 
I tried to stand 
you broke the dam 
you broke the dam 
you shut my mouth 
I bit your hand 

you circle yourselves with barbed wire 
you buffer yourselves in concrete 
you station a guard in each tower 
review, rehearse, and repeat 
OK, Joe, you tough guy 
let me go 
OK, Joe, you big guy 
time to go home 

you sent the man 
you sent the man 
you pulled me down 
I tried to stand 
you broke the dam 
you broke the dam 
you shut my mouth 
I bit your hand 

you shut your mouth 
it's time to go 

I will not beg 
I will not bend 
I will not buy American 
I will not blink 
I will not bleed 
I will not buy American 
I will not shrink 
I will not feed 
I will not buy American 
I will not spend 
I will not spend 
I will not buy American


Shellshock 

don't say 
you believe in me 
you're on your own 
so don't look down 
it's a long way down 
a long way down 

don't say 
just get over it 
you never served 
you never lived 
you're in your own world 
a tiny, shiny world 

don't say 
you understand 
every dream 
a primal scream 
it's a long way down 
a long way down 

I dream the life I used to live 
the wire, the hole, the trophy shiv 
I dream the only life I get 
the night, the black, the terror fit 
shellshock... 

don't say 
you pity me 
I did my best 
just like the rest 
we gave it away 
gave it away 

so don't say 
you believe in me 
I died the day 
they discharged me 
it's a long way home 
a long way home 

I wake the day the shooting stops 
the door, the Fourth, the engine drops 
I wake the only way I can 
the eyes, the eyes -- I killed a man 
shellshock... 


Kwangju 

flower boxes 
we had flower boxes 
we had broken bones and cobblestones 
we had flower boxes 

bayonets 
they had bayonets 
they had M-16's blow'n to smithereens 
they had bayonets 

I lost my brother 
I lost my sister 
in a cell or in a well -- 
I hope he's with her 

we're on a "fascinating vacation" 
a giddy, strange elation 
we packed our gas masks 
we're headed for the station 

we're on a "fascinating vacation" 
a choking, wild sensation 
we packed our gas masks 
we're headed for the station 

TNT 
we got TNT 
we got vintage guns and taxi runs 
we got TNT 

got the green light 
they got the green light 
ROK from the USA 
they got the green light 

I lost my brother 
I lost my sister 
in a cell or in a well -- 
I hope he's with her 

we're on a "fascinating vacation" 
a giddy, strange elation 
we packed our gas masks 
we're headed for the station 

we're on a "fascinating vacation" 
a choking, wild sensation 
we packed our gas masks 
we're headed for the station 


Blowback 

hey, boy 
just wrap yourself in the flag 
it feels so good 
people you don't know 
bomb people you don't know 
it feels so good 

intuition? institution! 
Bible thump'n, Limbaugh hump'n 
it feels so good 
death squads and democracy 
bitter fruit and happy pills 
you feel so good 

what you don't know 
what you don't care 
what you don't get 
you could never dare 
(blowback) we sow the seeds that poison us 
(blowback) we bear the fruit that staggers us 
(blowback) we kiss the thorn that bloodies us 
(blowback) we build the freaks that frighten us 
blowback 

hey, boy 
just wrap yourself in your god 
it feels so good 
people you don't know 
smite people you don't know 
it feels so good 

you're right, I'm wrong 
God hates this song 
you're saved, I'm not 
you know I'm not 
I'm going down 
you're rising up 
it barely fits -- 
your crucifix 
it feels so good… 


Ack! 

it's on the radio 
it's on the big screen 
it's on my forehead 
searing into me 

brand me 

it's in our blood 
it's in our DNA 
it's on each bar code 
whispering what to say 

sell me 

it's on the bus stop 
it's on the boardwalk 
it's on the billboard 
crowing like a cock 

own me 

I don't need anymore 
I don't want anymore 
I don't feel anymore 
I can't breathe anymore 

it's in my throat 
almost on my lips 
it's coming back up 
it's coming… back up 


The End of Chivalry 

sun goes down 
sun down 
lights go out 
lights out 
I wait for your whisper 
nothing 

sun comes up 
sun up 
breath goes out 
breathe in 
I wait at the table 
nothing 

and you won't run the bulls again 
and you won't serenade me again 

sun goes down 
sun down 
lights go out 
lights out 


Red 

elephant grass 
ten foot high 
all we got 
twice too high 

shirtless boy 
staring up at me 
all he got 
still smoking in the trees 

chewing a cigarette 
spooning a canned peach 
all I got 
I left on the beach 

office no windows 
paper trail to waste 
all they got 
a sterile world away 

baby killers -- zoom! 
they see us on the news 
all they got 
a shrinking, burning fuse 

the front is the rear 
is the wait is the fear 
is the rain is the heat 
is the kill is the meat 
is the rot is the boot 
is the spike is the foot 
is the blood is the loam 
is the war is our home 

the war is our home… 


Landmine 

I'll learn to walk with one leg 
I'll learn to crawl with none 
a crab on the floor 
I slither and beg 
a crab at your door 
I beg 

mercy 

I'll learn to sign with my other hand 
I'll learn to breathe with one lung 
deformed on the sheets 
I fumble and quake 
deformed at your feet 
I speak 

love me 
(land on me…) 

I'll learn to walk the fields like this 
I'll learn to breathe in the mist 
a bee on the sage 
the grass, the stones 
a bee at my hip 
explodes 

I'm free 
(land on me…) 


United Fruit Co. 

remember Sam the Banana Man? 
the (super) Dulles Brothers? 
the Ambassador from Hell? 
everybody liked Ike… 

United! Fruit! Co.! 

teachers and preachers 
writers and thinkers 
unionists and socialists 
everybody's in the ground… 

United! Fruit! Co.! 

what price freedom? 
what price democracy? 
what price, America? 
collective amnesia… 

United! Fruit! Co.! 


Credo 

help me believe in motherhood 
in fevers broken, in comfort spoken 
help me believe in the hands of love 
let me sing, let me sing 

you're more than a Christian 
you're more than a Jew 
you're more than Allah ever knew 
you're more than your Chakras 
you're more than your flesh 
you're more than the pills they sold to you 

so help me believe in childhood 
in thirsty days, in humming planes 
help me believe in memory 
in rivers run, September sun 

you're more than a human bomb 
you're more than a pawn 
you're more than the Man would ever let on 
you're more than a way of life 
you're more than a flag 
you're more than the dog they try to wag 

so help me believe in childhood 
in thirsty days, in humming planes 
help me believe in memory 
in rivers run, September sun 
help me believe in motherhood 
in fevers broken, in comfort spoken 
help me believe in the hands of love 
let me sing, let me sing 

you don't need to be the hammer 
you don't need to be the spike 
you don't need to be the thresher 
the fuel, the fire, the fight 
just help me believe

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