For Pledges

The promises we make ourselves which we know we can't keep. The flimsy pledges we vow to abide by but only until faced with the overwhelming criss-crossing of circumstance. So my behavior may seem a little odd sometimes - it is because I go through phases and I burn through pledges. When I listen to this song I have to laugh at how much I say and how little I flesh out.

If I explain this pledge
then they're other things that need explaining too
For pledges - superficial
draw parallels you wish you never drew

I can't get into it, really. But believe me, it is not as sexy as I am making it out to be.


I Would Work If I Could

I would work if I could
Just too low to do anything good

Let me lay this down for you all. WORK is not what most consider to be work - i.e. the daily grind, the rat race, 9-5, etc... Work here is my life's work, what you hear and what you see. Work like Warhol through Lou Reed and John Cale.

Man I was down when I wrote this. I was also highly influenced by some Queens of the Stone Age bouncy rock song, believe it or not. But at first this was a banjo song and it mutated into this sort of quasi Beatles pop number. Anyway, I really could not do any work for a while around this time. As loved ones would be quick to point out, my "a while" is all in my head. So the perception of lack of work may not be consistent with the actual output - but I always live in my perceptions.

Listen for the fragile toy-like piano part for some joy.

(NOTE: my web host has said they'll be down all weekend, so the songs may be unavailable for a bit - please be patient with them. From their bulk email it sounds like it will really be worth it....not really.)


Inventory (CD 2005)

After the success of In the Analog Woods, the label and I decided to make a full go of the next CD. Still a limited edition, but larger - 1000. I hesitate to get into this too much because the lack of support for this record was painful and especially since this was, up to that point, my proudest musical moment. So let's just leave it at, some shit did not get done and as a result, too few people heard this CD - a shame.

But this disc is really special for me. This was the first time I recorded with a full band since 1998. And this crew, for the most part, is still with me today. David Curry on viola, Djim Reynolds on Guitar, Gregg Porter on drums and Casey Dienel on Piano. Casey was just a studio player, but the rest came out to shows and did their thing.

I hear growth here. Focus of intent and intentional writing. Djim recorded it and got such unique sounds. Most of the vocals were recorded in a rarely used wood sauna. There is a lot of wood on these tapes. And animals - deer emerged and receded while we rehearsed as did the turkeys. It feels like this record took two years in the making but I think it was due to some false starts and some learning and some rethinking. There are places we get to here that we will pass on subsequent records and we smile as we accelerate past.


Torn Green Velvet Eyes - BONUS TRACK

This is a cover of a Magnetic Fields song I did for a tribute compilation published by Slight Record, which is an imprint of the webzine Slightly Confusing to a Stranger. Due to some legal complications this was never released as a CD, only as free downloads. I don't think these are available anywhere anymore, which is too bad. Of note here is the fake mellotron plug-in which creates a warbley, seasick drone. I think Djim mixed this with me, but I can't be sure.

Funny thing about covers, I never recall how to play other peoples songs so it takes a ton of effort to record a cover. I decided I am lucky to remember how to play my own songs. So don't try yelling out for this one at my next show (April 7th at the Red Door in Portsmouth, NH) is all I am saying.


As it Turns Out - BONUS TRACK

How do you explain fear?

There is a fair amount of dread that I view some of my songs with. This is something I never knew until embarking on this blog project. To me this is so definite, so specific. Maybe to the listener that comes through all wrapped up in tin and rust. But maybe this is just for me. In general, I don't know why I write songs, it is a compulsion. But when I listen to this one I know just why I wrote it and it is still raw. I came up with this phrase once to describe what I do for some press papers: ABSTRACT PRECISION. As it turns out, it may only be precise to my brain.

Production notes:
Another stellar slide guitar performance from Jim. Recorded at the Estate by Jim during the never-ending Inventory sessions or before them, who knows. This was put out on one of the magnificent Ball of Wax compilations, what great things those are. Buy some.



Carole King wrote this one and I tried my best. Jim and I recorded it and he played slide guitar on too. I must have a high opinion of myself to even attempt one of her songs. You be the judge of the result in the comments please. Myself, I like this weird version, my apologies to Ms. King of course.

This was part of a limited edition compilation for the label I used to be on (before they went under).

Gradually I am working my way up to starting to post songs from my 2005 CD, Inventory. Why am I stalling? No clue. This better be worth the wait Roff.


The Best is Yet to Come - BONUS TRACK

From concept to completion, I've got to know
How the west was won and why the east let go.

Before the record Inventory was released, I had this hot idea to do a little radio "teaser". The first two tracks were right off of the record and then there was this song. This was recorded live on WMBR's classic local music show, The Pipeline in 2002 (engineered by the one and only Ramsey Tantawi). This was a super-group of some sort. A rare combo in its entirety. Jim Reynolds on banjo, David Michael Curry on viola, Gregg Porter on drums, and TW Walsh on piano and bass. This lineup was always one of my favorites because these are such intuitive musicians who can do anything at the suggestion. They really care about the songs and serve them well and that is a rare thing. This is the definitive version of this rambling number. There are bouts of atonality that are just perfect to me - everyone finding their way and it is all good.

Give it (why?) back to me
What a mild discovery
call it what it is, it is ornamental

Also of note, is that I think this is the first public performance under the moniker, Brian Michael Roff and the Deer. And for what it is worth, the radio teaser idea kind of fell flat on its face.


Often I Am Thought to Be Full of Beans - BONUS TRACK

Here we have a W/# bonus "cut". From around 2003? I will admit I love the building repetition of this song. In fact, throughout my music, I have had a love for repetition and layering new sounds with each repeat. It seems that when I do that, the lyrics tend to be more skewed and less overtly personal, but still some truth sneaks by:

You might think, what a miserable fuck
and you would be right, just as right as a Captain
is alone at sea, spies land from the galley
gets held in an alley
your suspicions were right

OK...so the part about being a lonely captain coming to shore and being "held" in an alley is totally not true. I am sure this happens regularly in the port towns and cities of this state, but not to me.

As for the cursing, I don't do that too often, but I do it when it is appropriate. I mean I am no Liz Phair, but I occasionally sing the foul. Sometimes it is the only thing to get the point across.


Make It a Dime

A song of doubt and lack of confidence. Every time I would move, this would happen:

Two, four, six, ten
it's Brian's back again

The pain in this is so true. Originally titled "Worst Things First" but I thought better of using such a turn of phrase for the title, lest I appear to proud of my cleverness.

When you don't know what you're doing
Things seem much worse
The only way to do it
Is to put worst things first

(Coming up next, some stray tracks and the lead in to the 2005 landmark (for the band and I), Inventory, a "radio and friends of BMR only release" called Pre-Inventory...oh my I am clever.)


In and Of Itself

Not a fan of this phrase. I will say nothing, stare blankly, pick my teeth or just walk away - rather than say it.

In and of itself, means: NO MEANING

What I do like is how just writing this song turned this into a pet peeve. It was not a big deal before, but after writing it...well I had to stick my poetic guns. So big joke is that "In and Of Itself" the song means no meaning. There are specks of truth in here though, which are to small in size but too large in consequence to go into.

Can I help you Brian Michael?
I reply, as if insightful, "In and of itself!"


Rocks and Minerals

This is kind of confusing. In a couple of days I will post the song "Make it a Dime". The chorus of this song was taken from one of the original choruses of that song. The weird thing (to me), is that this chorus was actually only one of the choruses being sung during the original chorus of that song...I mean there were two being sung at once. Oh wait, it get's weirder. Turns out there is actually no chorus at all on the "Make it a Dime" that wound up on this record!

I found this one lying covered in static and hiss on a tape full of mostly throw away song sketches that I recorded on a little Realistic hand-held tape recorder. I recorded that sketch before the war in Iraq started, so the line referring to the military was proven particularly prescient by the time I got around to recording it for real. Sometimes there is gold on those type of tapes. Sometimes there is just an embarrassing plastic bottle of glitter.

This song wound up being a band and crowd favorite. Crowds (I use the term very loosely - as there are rarely true "crowds" at my shows) respond to the end:

Shrug your shoulders, you're inside
Shrug your shoulders, it's applied
Oh! The balance there has been
Old embarrassments begin
Feeling like rock and minerals


The New Me

When I was 17 my friends all started getting cars. This one kid, John, got a vintage VW Beetle. At that age, it is all about pushing limits and trying to find out where your boundaries are. It is an awkward way to live. And at this time you can also set a lifelong course. Will I be the type who seeks out truth and information, even if it does not bring joy? So one night, I pushed the limits on that VW Beetle, riding on the rails while John drove around in circles, in the parking lot of a closed McDonald's. John shifted gears, my hand slipped and off I tumbled. My head could have been under that narrow tire - but I just ended up with a torn up right arm.

Want something that instantly forgives,
Not a mark on my arm, a fading scar...

Blissful ignorance ceased at that moment.



I wrote this during a time when I was listening to a lot of Phil Ochs. I'd never written a song with a sing-a-long chorus before and that was the idea for this one. A protest song like "I Ain't Marching Anymore" has so much power to rally. I may have said it before but I will say it again, I am no activist folkie. What came out here turns out to be nothing like what inspired me, but isn't that better? So the emergency is, as expected, inside me. The rest is another tale of sour characters and places, mostly invented and revolving around the fictitious Camp Benjamin Franklin. Where we cursed Thomas Edison for his light bulbs that chase away the animals and worse yet reminds us where we are.

Initially the lyric was something where I took far too much poetic license:

Edison, invents light. Thomas E. wasn't right

Yikes! I am glad I did not keep that line. But really, when I first wrote this the lyrics to the verses were less important than the "emergency" chorus. But as it was reworked for this release the verses got less frivolous, and the whole feel gets a little more cryptic.

Now I'm not counting your fortune, but I saw your money clip through your pants.
Those rooks were taking Liberty out for a dance - and swing she did.

Admittedly, by the time this song was recorded, I was under the influence of M. Ward, which is clearly evident to my ears.