Biting The Ugly Biscuit

by X-tal

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A compilation released in Germany in 1996 on the Normal label's Return To Sender series, Biting The Ugly Biscuit collects various X-tal oddities recorded between 1984 and 1994.


released April 24, 2017

Album compiled and produced by J Neo Marvin and Pat Thomas
Tape transfer and new mixes by Greg Freeman at Lowdown Studio, SF
Sequencing and editing by Steve Vernon and J Neo Marvin at Signal SF
Cover photo by Annie Hesse, On Broadway, SF, 1984.



all rights reserved


X-tal San Francisco, California

Here, for the first time, the entire recorded output of X-tal in one place.

X-tal (1983-1996) were a San Francisco post-punk band fronted by J Neo Marvin. Greil Marcus of the Village Voice described them as a “small-time San Francisco combo that wears their defeated leftist politics on their sleeves and can open for the Mekons without letting you forget them when the headliners come on.” ... more

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Track Name: Family Jewels
From the second you're born
You're in somebody's debt
You're just a parasite
And don't you ever forget
And all the great big people
Who you owe your life
Take it upon themselves
To shape you with a knife

From the minute you're walking
You're assigned a load
And taught to follow the great man
Who designed the road
And every step you take
You're sinking in the mud
But when it reaches your mouth
You realize it's blood

The first word you gurgle
Is a brand new tool
You're a little loudspeaker
For them to talk through
You get your list of thoughts
You quickly memorize
And then you take them with you
Into the world outside

But don't you ever forget how lucky you are
I could have run you over with the family car
Your whole life is a gift and it came from me
So be a real good branch of the family tree

When I was all alone and maybe half asleep
I used to have a dream that I was raised for meat
And everything I saw and everything I knew
Was a vast hallucination that I thought was true
To distract my brain while my body grew
Caressed by images that seemed so real
While being fattened up for someone else's meal
Until one day they pulled the wool over my eyes
And it'd all be over before I knew I was surprised
And some omnipotent cook was laughing through the smoke
And said "it thought it was a person, what a fucking joke."
Track Name: Dear Friends
It's like a pleasant dream that's no longer useful
You used to live on coffee, now it just makes you sick
You used to walk in crowds just too tall for your own good
You were bouncing off the walls, you were basking in your own light
Just a red hot fool with a mouth of gold
But now you're out of the river and you're in the ocean
You're just another fish, just another piece of bait
And you say, "Where are my dear friends?"

The old days were such a gas, life was like a luxury liner
You remember all the good times now that all the scars are fading
"Where are my dear friends?"

Now there's a wall around you and you don't wanna break it
'Cause it's there to keep you sane
So all the shit around you doesn't reach your brain
And you're tired of people because they all want something
All those grasping hands, all those probing fingers
And it tears you up inside, it's an endless blur, an endless numbness
You want something to say and someone to say it to
And you remember the days when you thought you were lonely
And you remember the days when you thought you were cool
All you can say is "where are my dear friends?"
The ones you took for granted
You thought you'd stay together and keep in touch forever
But nothing was put down on paper
And you want to make some contact
But your pen can't reach the paper
You're too weak to lift the receiver
"Where are my dear friends?"

It's just not on when you walk in the store
And you look at the messages left on the board
There's no inspiration in the people you know
No one understands all the things that obsess you
They don't feel the forces that move and possess you
You look like a lunatic tearing your hair
And you drink and you rave, hanging off of the stairs
And the people around you don't feel a thing
Their eyes never glow and their ears never ring
They just toss ideas, refine their prose
Prepare their statements and adjust their clothes
And you say "Where are my dear friends?"

You can't afford to watch the wheels go round
You gotta get on the bus, you gotta track them down
You gotta kiss some babies, gotta shake some hands
It's just another town, it's not the promised land
(I heard it through the grapevine you were down by the old graveyard
I was drunk and falling down on a stage somewhere in your town
I wish you'd been there
We could have cried or laughed on each other's shoulders)
Track Name: White Rat
Another day, another night
Gobble up a handful, a handful of whites.
Tonight I'm putting on my best ripped up clothes
Going out to find some true low rent low budget rock and roll

All the local parasites are breaking down your door
They’re not gonna leave till you let them crash out on your floor
Tell me why do you let them hang around?
Do you really think that you owe something to this town?

In heaven everything is fine
In heaven the trains never run on time
I’m just a white rat
I live on chump change
I got no soul
I can’t even do the hustle.

I go out skanking nights with all the natty dreads
Top ranking dubwise sound is mashing up our heads
I get shivers up and down when Winston Rodney sings
But I don’t need to smoke ganja and I don’t believe in kings

In heaven everything is fine
In heaven the trains never run on time
I’m just a white rat
I live in a small cage
I got no exercise wheel
You don’t know just how we feel.
Track Name: Lullaby
Show me silence, give me sleep
Give me something that I need
Dream away, till the colors of the day

Sunlight glistens through to me
Shadows drifting out of reach
Close the door, I can't use it anymore

If heaven calls then I'll be there
I've often wondered what is there
Wonder why I can't reach it in the night

I saw darkness turn to light
Felt the warmth flow through my mind
Hold me tight, let this feeling fade tonight.
Track Name: Happy Americans
Sixty needles and sixty pins
Look at all the Happy Americans
They never question, never doubt
What is this country they talk about?

Every day they’re on my TV
Being all that they can be
They’re in the army, they’re in the bar
They drive around in their manly cars
They’re all so perfect, they’re all so young
They never worry, they’re always having fun.

Sixty needles and sixty pins
Look at all those Happy Americans.

They belong to the city, they shine in the light
To the beat of the street in the heat of the night
Their hearts are on fire and they reach for the sky
The magical fantasy, the wonderful lie.

Put a smiley sticker on the problem
A band-aid on the festering wound
A nosejob won’t stop the cancer
This society is rotting from the inside
But our leaders wave the flag
More frantic as the days get shorter
While the acid rain blows in their faces
They smile and holler, “Pass the fried chicken!”

They shoot off their mouths ’cause they’re so concerned
They love explosions ’cause they never get burned
Where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Killing Khadafy with my water gun!

User-friendly, born to win
Rows and rows of Happy Americans.

And the newspaper owner is America’s voice
This shiny product is America’s choice
It’s waiting there for you on every shelf
How could you ever want anything else?

Are you now or have you ever been
A somewhat less than Happy American?

This is the Asshole Decade
So join the Asshole Generation
Everybody’s in the rat race now
We’re working harder than we ever have before
And when we bring home the bacon
We bring home nothing but frustration!
Track Name: I'll Behave
I'll behave
I am sweet
I am honey
I'll behave
Shelter those who need me
Honey dripping beehive

No no no no
I can't behave
I won't be sweet
Don't touch my honey

Now no one likes me anymore.
Track Name: Cheap Holiday
Old man sits inside castle walls
Brown babies stare at you, white and tall
Tall like the crest of the roof of the mission
White like its walls with stained glass incision
Collision course set for the heart of the sun
Find solitude, gratitude, still on the run
Bright pink Pacifico, grande magnifico
Why is it so difficult?
Why is it so difficult?
Why is it so difficult to take it as it comes?

I've heard this story many times
Heard it said in many lines
How the river on its splendid course
Will always reach the sea
Well, this baby's on the shore right now
And looking out for more right now
And wanting all to teach him how
To climb the highest tree

'Cause from there you can see everything
Autumn, winter, summer, spring
All you've lost and all you've won
How the river flows and where it's from
All is clear but all will cloud
And finally make you scream out loud
Why is it so difficult?
Why is it so difficult?
Why is it so difficult to take it as it comes?
Track Name: Encore
Well, you killed off your dad and you burned down the school
And you blew up the jail and tore up all the rules
Well, that’s cool. Yeah, that’s cool.

You were a teenage rebel with a lot to say
You took the propaganda and you threw it away
Well hooray…yeah, that’s OK.

What you gonna do for an encore
Now that you’re not so young anymore?

Well you spent your life looking for an alternative
What you really need now is some way to live.
Yeah, you broke away and you set yourself free
You’re only starting to learn now just how hard life can be
And you have all my sympathy.

What you gonna do for an encore
Now that you’re not so young anymore?
Track Name: Kansas Song (For Michael Johnstone)
In a small town in the Midwest
They’ve mounted speakers on the streetlights
All day they broadcast Muzak
Up and down the lane
The air is filled with Percy Faith
It penetrates your brain

Outside the town there is a river
The water is a peculiar color
The company it dumps its waste
And the river carries it away
Floating past the little town
That survives on company pay

Farmer looks down, scratches his head
Oh it sure has been one hell of a summer
All the cows are growing lumps
And the chickens roll over and die
He feels more dizzy every day
And he just can’t figure why

Sunday afternoon church social
Baptize children in the glowing river
All the people clap and sing
And the sunset burns so red
Junior doesn’t feel too good
So they tuck him into bed.
Track Name: Your Fragile Mind
When things get bad
And life is nothing but pain
And you decide
You’re better off blowing your brain

The voice inside tells you
That you can be free
Cloud up your eyes, turn inward
Step into your dream
Your fragile mind will take a walk

You’re on the ground
The crowd is staring at you
No one believes it
They’re asking, “Just what did you do?”
Don’t try to run, don’t try to talk
Your fragile mind will take a walk.
Track Name: Goldfish Bowl ("Carnegie Hall" mix)
One cigarette's as good as the rest
It's dark at three in the rain
It's hectic inside with these thundering storms
Talk about pleasure and pain
Trees that have stood for a thousand years
Suddenly wither and rot
Pass the power like you pass the salt
Better clean it up, 'cause it's all that you've got.

10:30 breakfast of coffee and pot
Take care not to walk with the masses
Keep an eye on your sanity, it's all that you've got
Despite what they say in the presses
What's the problem with you man
It's getting near two
And the ashtray is just getting fuller
To just step outside is like taking your life
Sometimes I think that that's cooler

Now the hours trickle by and in silence I cry
For atrocities never to be forgiven
They try ever so hard to make bad things look good
But who do they think that they're kidding?
Man, it's easy to see, Jesus, why can't you see?
The total collapse of a power
Designed for the free...hey, that's you and me
God, the taste in my mouth is so sour.
Track Name: Fatal Distractions (Early Version)
I ran into Miguel
At the laundromat one day
He was saying it’s a funny thing
How other people perceive your problems
You can be on a collision course
And everyone will think you’re doing just great
Turn around and try to heal yourself
They’re all so shocked to see the poison come out

I’ve seen that one before
I wanted more and more
I fell into the well
I laughed and said what the hell

I’ve tried honesty
And I’ve tried dishonesty
Weighing out the alternatives
All in all I like honesty better
It’s a horrifying thing
Retracing each rationalization
Little by little, day by day
Watching all my ethics slip away

I’ve done that one before
I wanted more and more
I shrugged and said what the hell
Fell deeper into the well

A sweet haze going straight to the heart
A warm blanket of blessed relief
“Hey I work my ass off for a living
When I come home I deserve a good time”
But it’s funny how things progress
And the good times just get boring
Pretty soon you’re just avoiding the pain
Everybody else takes for granted.

I’ve seen that one before
I needed more and more
I rang the pleasure bell
Endlessly climbing out of Hell

Don’t talk to me about the 12 steps
I can walk by myself, thank you very much
And I know just where I’m walking
I’m walking right out of here
I don’t want to have to think about scoring
And have to think about it again the next day
I’m still paying off the last joyride
I don’t care to jump on again.

I’ve seen that one before
I wanted more and more
I rang the pleasure bell
Endlessly climbing out of Hell
I’ve done that one before
I needed more and more
I fell into the well…
Track Name: Daddy Auction
Come on down, come on down
The orphans gathering all around
Come on down, come on down
The Daddy Auction’s back in town.

He’s six foot tall with thick gray hair
He wants us all to know he cares
He’ll buy us candy and make us glad
Spank us just right when we’re bad

He’ll wave at cameras and work all day
He’ll make the monsters go away
Watch his grace as he straddles the fence
I’m so filled with confidence

Come on down, come on down
Children gathering all around
Come on down, come on down
The Daddy Auction’s back in town.

Smiling dads lined up and down the hall
Running gauntlets, watch them fall
Who’s got the hardest, handsomest shell
The shiny surface that reflects our distorted selves?

So punch the hole for one of two
Who do you want to take care of you?
Pray the king your soul to keep
Make your free choice and go back to sleep.
Track Name: Smells Like Smoke (Live)
What makes you so surprised
To see a raging mob run wild?
Welcome to the ugly truth
Coming to crush your sweet denial
Tell the crowd to trust the system
They’ve all just seen how far that gets them
Tell them not to break the law
There’s no law at all, just power

Spare me the moral outrage
All I have to say
Is I am stunned and amazed
This doesn’t happen every day.

Sadistic selfish force
Put the cart before the horse
Years of examples on the news
Power is yours to grab and abuse
Revenge on random targets
Temporary dictators of a fool’s paradise
Enjoy your coup until the thrill dies down
You got a new TV and your hood’s burned to the ground

A nation’s sentimental myths crack open
Leaving nothing but the hate beneath them
Regression is no accident
When you’re trained to stay ignorant and hopeless

Lie to me, I don’t wanna see
Give me security, who cares if we’re free?

From the street corners of South Central to the shores of Somalia
A 2-D panorama of big scary chaos with no context
Feel shock, anger and compassion and understand absolutely nothing
Meanwhile, your safely walled enclaves will remain protected by any means necessary.
Track Name: Black Russian (Live in Paris)
Black Russian (Live in Paris)
from Who Owns Our Dreams? by X-tal


00:00 / 05:03

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Recorded live at the Elysee Montmartre, Paris, France, Dec. 1994, also appears on the album BITING THE UGLY BISCUIT on Return To Sender/Normal
You and we, we go together like Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky.*
We can talk about our endless pain and the failure of our ideology.
Spill your guts all over a canvas and from my exile I’ll fire off another tract.
We walk a thin line between faith and fate, but right now I’d rather not talk about that, so…

Pour me another black Russian and put off the serious part of the discussion.
It’s my downfall. It’s my poison. It’s my platform, my position.
Think twice before you follow; your chemistry may not be the same.
Pour me another black Russian till I’m blurred and sharpened all the same.

I don’t think I’m fundamentally evil, but I can be blinded by frustration.
I blame no one but myself for the times I’ve fallen into stupid situations.
In some anonymous east coast bar, some anonymous band is playing.
I knock back more toxic waste, trying to blot out the question in my mind:
Is it really over this time?

We had it out on River Road. How ugly can two lovers get?
The Sonoma County deputy sheriffs were this close to locking us both away.
Well, I’ve got a lot to regret and I’ve got a lot to live down
But one day I want to go back and make love to you in that same town.

Pour me another black Russian and put off the serious part of the discussion.
It’s my downfall. It’s my poison. It’s my platform, my position.
Think twice before you follow
Down the rabbit hole things get strange.
Pour me another Black Russian and let’s get real, real gone for a change.

*or “Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir” when performed in France.

(J Neo Marvin)
© 1992 Undulant Rhetoric (BMI)