Who Owns Our Dreams?

by X-tal

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San Francisco’s X-tal were one of the great unsung bands of the 1990s. Combining the sly pointed lyrics of J Neo Marvin (and others) with a Velvet-y wall of guitars and the twangy crunch of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, X-tal forged a distinctively American sound while daring to shine a light on the flaws of both their country and themselves. WHO OWNS OUR DREAMS? collects, for the first time domestically, some of the best songs from their final albums, which were previously only available on German labels.


released February 1, 2006

J Neo Marvin – Vocals, guitars, keyboards, and harmonica
Mark Zanandrea – Guitars, keyboards, mandolin, dulcimer, and vocals
Allison Moseley – Bass and vocals
Mick Freeman – Drums, percussion, and vocals

Guest artists:
Carrie Bradley – Violin
Meri St. Mary – Vocals on “Misadventure”
Wally Sound – 12-string guitar on “Edge Of The World”
Marty Brumbach – Whirly tube on “Diet Of Worms”

Tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 11, 13, and 14: Produced by X-tal and Marty Brumbach, recorded and mixed May-June 1994 at Polymorph Productions, Oakland, CA; previously released on the album MAYDAY on World Service/Rough Trade Deutschland

Tracks 2, 4, 6, 9, 10, 12, and 15: Produced by X-tal and Wally Sound, recorded and mixed Oct. 1995-Feb. 1996 at The Wally Sound (original location), San Francisco, CA; previously released on the album THE CONQUEROR WORM on World Service/Rough Trade Deutschland

Track 16: Recorded live at the Elysee Montmartre, Paris, France, Dec. 1994, also appears on the album BITING THE UGLY BISCUIT on Return To Sender/Normal

Track 17: Recorded live at the Underground, Cologne, Germany, Nov. 1994, unavailable elsewhere.

Album mastered by Wally Sound, Dec. 4, 2005.
Cover artwork: Davis Jones



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: Union Sunrise
We’ve had it with slaving just to survive and wondering what we’re working for.
We’ve had to say, “that’s the way it is”. Not anymore.
We’ve had no choice but to smile and be nice and turn the other cheek for more,
Our fates defined by one man’s whims. Not anymore.

I woke up feeling great today. I used to sleep in fear.
There’s power surging through us like I haven’t seen in years.

Who’s gonna turn your pretty little screws? Who’s gonna mind the store?
You’ve been taking us for granted lately. Not anymore.
We’ve seen the man behind the curtain. He looks smaller than before.
He used to cast an awesome shadow. Not anymore.

This is the voice of your replaceable cogs. This is the voice of your tools.
You might find things don’t run too smoothly if you choose to react like fools.
We’ve come to change some rules.

We’re going down to the bishop’s house to nail our theses to the door.
We used to be afraid of thunder. Not anymore.
Track Name: Losing Ground
If the first shall be last and the last shall be first
Do the ones in the middle just get bored?
Do they have to change their seats? Is their station incomplete?
Are they the ones who get ignored?

Well I had a talk with God and I found him rather odd
He's such a quiet guy
You would think in all this time he'd come up with one good line
Just to show you that he tried

If the devil wants your soul and you owe it to him whole
Just say his shoe's untied
You'd be surprised how well it works as he's staring at the dirt
And you will never die.
Track Name: Best Sellers
The mytho-poetic spin doctor has a prescription for your ills:
Myths of mighty kings and warriors, and all the blood their glory spilled.
Bring a drum and rent a loincloth: multicultural cliff-note mish-mosh.
Mystification of the status quo; a spiritual whitewash for your ego.

Forgive me if I find your customs puzzling.
I come from a planet where there are no sports.
Pardon my lack of enthusiasm if I refuse a bite of your hot dog.
Oh God, I’ve blown it again. I can’t seem to play this man game right.

Take me to the motivational meeting.
Suit me up and fire me up to sell.
Ask me what I do for fun. Do I have any wholesome hobbies?
Yeah, I’m building a scale model of Hell in my basement.

Best sellers tumble off the shelves.
Dime store gurus praise themselves.
They want a chance to fix my life.
I’ll find my way just fine.
Track Name: Mark Time
Waiting for the phone to ring
I can hear the mockingbirds sing
“You’re out of it and you’re out of touch.
Stop trying to make it all mean so much.”

Rack my mind. Thoughts just grind.
Soul to keep, no time to sleep.
Toss and turn, emotions burn.
Hunt them down, they can’t be found.

The stale motions that bring them praise
I sit back appalled and amazed.
Their diarrhea pays their rent.
I suppose they’re quite content.

Rack my mind. Thoughts just grind.
Soul to keep, no time to sleep.
Purge myself. Destroy my health.
Books and bottles knocked off of the shelf.

A little nonsense never hurt you, but shallowness is not a virtue.

Dueling in the marketplace
Marking time and taking up space.
You can talk about nothing all night.
I’ll shut my mouth till I can say it right.

I get too candid for my own good.
Sometimes I don’t equivocate like I should.
I cast my mind to long gone days
When there was more around to take my breath away.

Rack my mind for words I can’t find.
I don’t even care if they rhyme.
I can’t plug gaps with bullshit lines.
It just won’t work, no, not this time.
I can’t mark time. I’ve got no time.
Track Name: Diet Of Worms
I’ve got my reasons for dishonesty.
Every step ahead requires a methodology.
I win these awesome wars though morally weak,
Because I understand the use of guile and deceit.

Virginia, comfort me. I don’t want to lie,
But everything eludes me even when I think it’s mine.
Sleepwalking through the day, or sitting in my room,
I’ve got my reasons why I eat a diet of worms.

Do you crave the truth as you would desire air?
Do you trust or disbelieve? Are you innocent?
Dig for convictions but they’re covered with guilt.
If I could uncover them would you honor their worth?
Track Name: The Hypnotist
Can you explain yourself?
Can you justify your hate?
Itemize your prejudices
Clean them up and make them shine
Assemble the shards…glue them together

Call it a world view
Someone might follow you
And maybe if you’re lucky
They’ll bring their friends around too
Call it a party…call it a calling
Tapping into that vacant goldmine.

And if you were born on the other side
You’d be lifting your sword for the other side
12th century fools holding 21st century tools
This is the mosque, this is the temple
The enemy’s inside, it’s all so simple
Tortured, raped and killed for living on the wrong side of the hill

But I digress…tell us all about your cause.

Can you create a myth?
Some heroes and some villains
Treacheries, ancestral sins
Buried in the distant past
A secret pledge…a secret handshake

Somebody’s got to pay
They made you live this way
Subhuman obstacles to a new and brighter day
The time is now, and you know just how
You’re a leader of men with a sacred vow

And if you were born on the other side
You’d be lifting your sword for the other side
The more you lie the higher you can fly
This is the church, this is the steeple
Open up that door, slaughter all the people
A nation moves as one and time moves backwards when you’re having fun.

Are you proud of the history you are making
When look in the eyes of your victims
Oh, it must make you feel something.
Track Name: Five Legged Spider
How can we know how far we’ll go?
The future’s in our grasp till something manages to drag us back.

Who owns our dreams? Who wrote this script?
Staging mutinies on a leaky barge that’s set adrift.

We’re broke. We’re tired. We try so hard to stay inspired.
Strain to find new words. It’s harder when you know your voice is heard.

Come on, let’s crawl, on and on
Up the wall. Another leg done gone.
But we can’t turn back and we won’t turn back.
(We won’t get good answers till we ask better questions.)
Track Name: Studpuppet
No one has to apologize for putting a damper on your lies.
Your credibility is slipping faster than you can see.
You’ve made it clear to everyone which side your brain is buttered on.
Before you see reality, you’d pluck your eyes out gladly.

I thought I liked you till your loyalties came out.
I can’t believe the shit that pops out of your mouth
And that’s sad. It’s so sad.

Kneel down before the boss. He really understands your loss, you say.
Selfish immaturity is all that’s motivating us.
We can’t seem to get behind the padlocks on your “open” mind.
You’re a stuffed puppy on a string. You’d fall for anything.

I never did expect that you would be much help
But I never predicted just how proud you’d be of yourself
And that’s too bad, oh it’s just too bad.
Track Name: Misadventure
Laudanum and terror don’t mix all that well.
One warm ticket to dreamland through a thick fog of Hell.
I sharpen up my knives and laugh just to keep wide awake
And remember all the exits when I don’t know what’s at stake.

Venus, Mars and Jupiter
Shed your lovely light on her.
A queen’s ransom she’d fulfill
For extra-planetary swill.

It’s creeping up behind.
There’s something wrong that she cannot explain
But she knows it when she sees it.

Now I’m hungry, tired and weak. I’d gladly turn the other cheek.
Best not catch me rested and fed. I’d rather see you all were dead.
Somebody sent me up to Cripple Creek, but said I could stay there for just one week.
I danced all night and I slept in the sun. When it was over, I was finally ready to have fun.

Sweated out the poison.
Bought a brand new skin.
But the jailer woke me up to the same old sin.

It’s creeping up behind.
I can’t spell it out for you in 25 words or less
Ah, but trust me, yeah trust me.

It’s looming up ahead. It’s creeping up behind.
Confused, dissatisfied, all twisted up inside.
Don’t leave me alone here. Please leave me alone.
Track Name: Windbags
The man with the loudest voice
Surely must have the most to say
And all of it means more, you know,
If you hear it on the radio

He puts his finger on the pulse
Crushes it till it turns blue
And if they amputate the hand
It must not have belonged on you

Drown me out, speak your mind
Stroke yourself till you go blind
Call the shots, fire away
Do you win if I don’t play?

Grand Inquisitor takes a stand
For the ““real people” of this land, yeah,
You can tell which ones are real because
They’re the ones he never interrupts.

In the free market of ideas
Who’s that down there tearing up the field?
It’s the man with the loudest voice
As if we ever had a choice

Drown me out, speak your mind
Stroke yourself till you go blind
Call the shots, fire away
Do you win if I don’t play?

See those teeth that brightly shine
Just another mouth in a long long line
We’ve endured a lot from the likes of you
No doubt we’ll endure this too.
Track Name: Basics 101
It didn’t seem like much at the time
But you could let it in or you could lay there and die.
Are you too pure to breathe it in?
Yeah well, who knows where that air has been
And it just might clash with your nihilist chic
Your boot black soul and your love-hate beads.

Summer’s done. It’s back to Basics 101.
No more fun, it’s back to Basics 101.

Now your loved ones hate you the most
And your enemies love the way that you choke.
And you wouldn’t think to change a thing.
You’re in a gilded cage with a broken wing.
And it’s so peaceful here with the lights all off
And the windows shut, and all hope lost.

Summer’s done. It’s back to Basics 101.
No more fun, it’s back to Basics 101.
Track Name: Slow Fidelity
I lost my way.
Track Name: Apocalypservice
She said the end of the world is coming.
Turns around and there’s another sign manifesting.
She said, “did you hear the one about the six-year-old
Who tried to gouge a girl’s eyes out with a scissors?”

She said, “I despise our new protectors.”
I said, “they mean well, but they’re essentially spineless.”
We live in the eternal epic battle
Between mediocrity and evil.

First time I was told,
They spilled the beans; I was eleven years old.
We’ve been fruitful and we’ve multiplied
Now we don’t know how to stop this ride.

Fire, flood, earthquake, famine, plague
Rampant human idiocy
Yeah…it could happen but I’m not ready
To run off and hide in the mountains just yet.
Nostradamus does not run my life.
Track Name: Never Been Young
Tell me something about your childhood:
A life that was not my own.
Father, teacher, God and country
Hailstones raining down upon me.

I had me an education
In all the finest Southern values:
The steady rhythm of back-breaking work
The thrill of perpetual denial.

And I don’t feel old ‘cause I’ve never been young.

No bliss in my innocent past
Just sentimental lies and violence.
I was a simpleton in a corrupt and stupid world.
Innocence was a handicap
And I was aiming to lose that fast.
And when the right time did come,
I did not mess around, no.

Cradle nostalgia buffs
Longing for a life that never was
Cling to their censored memories.
There’s something faintly sick about it.

And I don’t feel old ‘cause I’ve never been young.
This is the mighty furnace that forged me
All bent and twisted, with a really shitty attitude.
Track Name: Edge Of The World
You told me I had to have fear, but didn’t mention why. Why give advice when you don’t know what’s true? We’re so far from anywhere else with so much to prove. Couldn’t go back even if we could turn around, there’s nothing left to go back to. Drive on into the dark. Will we all fall over the edge of the world? If I could walk away, search for something higher, with my soul intact and my head on fire, would we all fall over the edge of the world? I’ll take you all over the edge of the world.
Track Name: Black Russian (Live in Paris)
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.
Track Name: Long Dark Night (Live in Cologne)
Watch out where you park your Beemer
Going to the victory parade.
The chickens are coming home to roost on your hood now.
You’ve got a long dark night to face.

The big man’s getting all excited.
He thinks he’s found the cure for our malaise.
10,000 points of impending darkness
(Stumbling down the middle of the road to nowhere)
He’s got a long dark night to face.

People are desperate and uncertain.
Blind loyalty keeps them entertained.
They can’t fool themselves for too long.
They’ve got a long dark night to face.

Why we gotta always talk like that?
Don’t we ever run out of things to hate?
Self-absorbed and bitter, how much longer?
We’ve got a long dark night to face.
We’re running out of time to waste.
It’s going to blow up in our face.
We’ve got a long dark night to face.
Things get worse before they get better.
We’d better face this night together.