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credits

released March 24, 2015

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tags: pop Vancouver

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Clare O'Connor & Corbin Murdoch Vancouver, British Columbia

Equal parts earnest and incisive, Work Songs is an album by Clare O'Connor and Corbin Murdoch. Originally composed for the theatre, it is a song-cycle that asks what we can salvage from personal loss and political despair.

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Track Name: Eldest Daughter
I have no memory
Of my family
Without my sisters
There beside me
We sang proudly for our father
I was leader, the eldest daughter

Eldest daughter, older sister
Daddy’s little war-resister
I’ve worked hard, but never harder
For the esteem of my dear father

My dear father, smooth operator
A skilled and cunning troublemaker
My mother’s protests met with refusal
Left us wanting for his approval

He was California bound
He was California bound
Still feel the sting of his absence now
He was California bound
Track Name: Brand New City
The city is restless it shifts and it sighs
Sometimes I need someone to help me survive
The fear our resistance isn’t what it should be
Is calmed by the promise that you see in me

The first time that we met
We were the last ones left
On the picket lines at Bay and Bloor
We snuck into a train yard
Climbed up on a billboard
Looking over Davenport

My mother always told me
There was nothing for me
In this city anymore
But perched above the traffic
In our winter jackets
You would prove my mother wrong

The tenements haunted, the back alleys prowled
They were built brick by brick with a masonry trowel
And in the same way a brand new city grew
Spreading out over top of one I already knew

The bar booths and the cafes
That became our mainstays
I had somehow missed before
Where the old guard and the new
Came to reconcile the two
By moving the goalposts once more

Anarchists debating
How we should be creating
The preconditions for class war
This became the backdrop
Stuck behind our laptops
’Til we were wonderin’ what we do this for

Soon we created a new kind of love
One that I had not thought I was capable of
You revealed to me the best parts of myself
And refused to allow me to be anyone else

Some nights were eternal
Pages of our journal
Spread out on the bedroom floor
Working straight to deadline
Getting drunk on cheap wine
Once we couldn’t work no more

My mother always told me
There was nothing for me
In this city anymore
But smoking at the station
After the demonstration
You would prove my mother wrong

The city is restless it shifts and it sighs
Sometimes I need someone to help me survive
Track Name: A Love Without Letters
The silver in the pixel
The ripple in the sheen
The dissolve of the trace left
By my fingers on the screen

The glitch pierces the surface
The glow distorts the dream
The unblinking eyes of lovers
The purr of our machines

What could we become in your untamed imagination?
Can you capture it in language?
Could you write it down for me?

Oh my lovers
Let’s keep this fire burning
This flame is yours alone
I’ll tend your fire with letters
A love without letters
Is a love I’ve never known

The blush left by the rapture
Your fingers across my skin
The sting left by the rupture
The warmth left by the sting

The rising of a breastbone
The spreading of a thigh
My lover is a lion
She lifts an amber eye

Can we still imagine our love as an act of liberation?
A conversation that demands the very best of me

Oh my lovers
Let’s keep this fire burning
This flame is yours alone
I will tend your fire with letters
A love without letters
Is a love I’ve never known

When I imagine my lovers
It is dark and they are dreaming
Scattered ‘cross a continent bathed in unending night

When I am lonely, despairing
I can recall the feeling
My touch becomes a solace before I return to the fight
Track Name: Middle Child
I have no memory
Of my family
Without my sisters
There beside me
There is power in what is whispered
The soothing song of my middle sister

Middle sister, 2nd arrival
My beloved, unwitting rival
She learned to side step my confrontation
Silent witness to separation

Separation, it landed heavy
Could feel it coming, but we weren’t ready
I felt an anger that burned and blistered
Set me apart from my younger sisters

They were California bound
They were California bound
A family scattered across the land
They were California bound
Track Name: Song For A Lonely Internationalist
A hole is cut into razor wire
A flame is set in a stack of tires
A streak of white cuts the inky black
An arc retraced as they hurl it back

You flew across an ocean to take a photograph
To reaffirm a truth that we just couldn’t seem to grasp
But when you came back home you found the argument had shifted
We seem to reinvent the wheel with each atrocity committed

I know you you’re still haunted by things that you’ve seen
Ducking the bullets on the streets of Jenin
The first time you wondered if you’d make it home
When you put down your camera and picked up a stone

The cigarettes you smuggled from the European Union
Helped convince your sources that you weren’t in collusion
Ate olives in the sun, tried to avoid undue attention
Calculated risk, will it be death or just detention?

I know you you’re still haunted by things that you saw
Caged in queue at Qalandiya
Tell me where do you feel most alone
Overseas, or back at home?

A hole is cut into razor wire
A flame is set in a stack of tires
A streak of white cuts the inky black
An arc retraced as they hurl it back

20 years ago I guess it would be Nicaragua
Shooting photos of insurgents from a rooftop in Managua
40 years ago I guess you’d be in Vietnam
Stonewalled by the proxies in the green zones of Saigon

I know you you’re still haunted by things that you saw
in a Gaza City hospital
You don’t have to tell me, just know that you can
Won’t try to pretend that I understand
Track Name: Toronto 2010
Tired without complaint
Elbow deep in wheatpaste
Six months worth of heartache
From thinkin’ back a decade
To when we brought down the fences
Then just stood and stared
And found we were an army
Completely unprepared

Kept me awake
With questions
Drafting broadsheets on the floor
Asking my take
On how this time
Would be different than before

Remember the reports
From Athens and Madrid
A flank of cops beat back
By a thousand unarmed kids
But Toronto 2010
This is how we fought
Each city gets a riot
This is the one mine got

You caught my eye
On Yonge Street
Undone like streets before.
Patrol car fire
The emblem
Of the lack of something more

Barricades of shield and boot
Sniper scopes trace out our route
Morning raids took seventeen
Called it a conspiracy

Now five years later
Still feel the anger
A failure wasted
Barely debated

The mass detentions
The infiltrations
Are we still spinning
That this is winning?

And we recall
Each city
For how its people fight
Play back the tapes
And show me
Which parts we got right
Track Name: Breakdown
If I seem a little jittery I can't restrain myself
I'm falling into fancy fragments - can't contain myself
Now I can stand austerity but it gets a little much
When there's all these livid things that you never get to touch
I'm gonna breakdown, yeah

Feel my brain like porridge coming out of my ears
and I was expecting reverie
I've taken leave of my senses - and I'm in arrears
my legs buckle over - I'm living on my knees

Whatever makes me tick it takes away my concentration
Sets my hands a-trembling - gives me frustration
So I hear that two is company for me it's plenty trouble
though my double thoughts are clearer now that I am seeing double
I'm gonna breakdown, yeah

Oh mom can I grow out of what's too big for me
I'll give up that ghost before it gives up me
I wander loaded as a crowd, A nowhere wolf of pain
Living next to nothing, my nevermind remains
I'm gonna breakdown, yeah
Track Name: Iron In Our Blood
In the decades free of terror on the lip of the Great Lakes
In a century that ended before a new one took its place
We found each other early and fell into our embrace
A body grown beside a body knows that body’s shape

The city starts to buckle, sympathetic to the storm
Clutched against the caprock, a crack begins to form
The fissure in the asphalt where we buried our desire
And gathered in the wintertime to feed its tender fire

You isolate the pressure point and pierce it with a pin
The truths I leave to harden into knots beneath my skin
A surge in the transistor showers us in spark
Pulses through the power lines and leaves us in the dark

Jealous as the shipwreck, lonely as the flood
I led love to the lakeshore and I laid it in the mud
You left it to the tempest to be rusted by the rains
Iron sharpens iron, there is iron in our veins

And now my shoulders slacken in the warm pacific breeze
In a city doomed to disappear sometime this century
On the far side of a season I long for your embrace
A body grown beside a body knows that body’s shape
Track Name: Steel Sharpens Steel
Promise to remind me
Why we set the bar so high
So hard to remember
When we’re barely getting by

A repertoire of failure
Battles lost, concessions won
Seems strange to look back now
And consider what we’ve done

Promise you won’t let me
Be undone by my mistakes
Sorry I can’t tell you
How many times it’s gonna take

Can we call it a resistance
If we’re always in retreat?
Outsmarted and outnumbered
Outmaneuvered on the street

I guess I’m getting older
I guess I’m getting older
I bet you’re getting older too

Steel sharpens steel
Can it also thicken skin?
To admit that we’re losing
Is to allow we can win

Let depression lead us
To the edges of our wounds
Curl ourselves like sisters
‘Round the hollow in our wombs

I guess I’m getting tired
I guess I’m losing patience
I bet you’re losing patience too

I guess that I’m despairing
I know that I still want this
I hope that you still want it too
Track Name: The Fix
I was still finding the words
They were publishing your piece
I was still finding my courage
You were fighting the police
And I wanted so badly to do what you were able to
Easier to just fall in love with you

You wanted to retreat
To be shielded from view
All the people that you loved
Expected things from you
You felt you knew the part I wanted you to play
Easier to just turn and walk away

The panic when you meet someone who’ll change you
The terror once you know you have to tell them
When you’re already sure how they’ll receive it
Yeah, you’ve always been able to take it or to leave it

I said it didn’t hurt
That it was just a bruise
Still I tried to turn myself
Into something you could use
But my constant return to the rawness of the wound
Allowed me to admit this was about more than you

So I took every chance
And learned to follow through
Until others saw in me, what I had seen in you
I learned to think of love
As risk and gratitude
Had a been lying if I’d said, I didn’t still want that with you

The panic when you meet someone who’ll change you
The terror once you know you have to tell them
When you’re already sure how they’ll receive it
Yeah, you’ve always been able to take it or to leave it

Last summer
I took a lover
I saw my younger self in her
Told her the love she
Wanted from me
She should look to herself for

I never once told her a lie
She cried through our goodbye

So now you’ve hit some walls
Found the rules that you obey
To protect yourself from some, keep everyone away
There’s a tension in your chest that reason won’t undo
You find it’s I who has something to teach you

Somehow we have held on to a friendship
Despite all the discomfort and the bullshit
By now there’s no need to even say it
But you’ve always been able to take it or to leave it
Track Name: Little Sister
I have no memory of my family
Without my sisters there beside me
The dimpled cheek where I first kissed her
Little song bird, baby sister

Baby sister, a child no longer
Growing wiser, growing stronger
Our father’s bedside, that cruel December
I wondered which parts she remembered

I’ll remember that night forever
Death had brought us back together
We sang a song we’d learned as children
And for our father, we sang as women

We are California bound
We are California bound
To spread some ash upon the sand
We are California bound