Friday, September 12, 2014

Music To Write By: Model Engine's "Scarred But Smarter"

Why Listen? For an über-literary breakup song that simultaneously marries complication and clarity.


The phrase "thinking man's post-grunge" might seem oxymoronic, but if it does, you've obviously never listened to the music of Jeremy Post. Of course, that wouldn't be surprising. Post helmed two bands in the mid-to-late nineties (the idiosyncratically named Black Eyed Sceva and Model Engine), but never managed to find much commercial success. Some might attribute that to the fact that Post's lyrics made him sound as if he were a poet born in the wrong century. He liked to write about everything from 19th century French philosophers ("Comte's Perspective") to his internal thought process when clasping hands with an AIDS-infected drug addict ("Handshake") to a lyrical description of a street in Hamburg's red-light district ("Reeperbahn"). Not your typical subject matter, and few tunes illustrate his writing chops as well as "Scarred But Smarter" from Model Engine's The Lean Years Tradition.

An alternately pensive and aggressive breakup song, "Scarred But Smarter" is stippled with unconventional verse structure, complicated wordplay thick with assonance and antonyms, and allusions to John Keats, George Orwell, and Pontius Pilate. It's enough to keep a coffee-swilling undergrad Lit student happily occupied for most of an evening. Yet Post didn't get so caught in his craft that he forgot the virtues of simplicity. The final verse lays his theme out plain as day:
It's not
That I feel good. It's that I
Still can feel. That's good,
And that's all
That's good
For now.
Few can marry complication and clarity so well. Here's to hoping that the now-retired Post will one day deign to pick up guitar and pen again.

15 comments:

Jesse Grisham said...

I know this is an old post and, chances are no one will ever see this, but I love this song and I love Model Engine. I've been trying so hard to find any trace of them. I would fly to California just to sit down and have lunch with Jeremy Post and pick his brain a while.
The Lean Years Tradition has become one of the most important musical influences on my life, without doubt.

Loren Eaton said...

One of my lifelong regrets is that Jeremy Post hasn't done anything with music since The Lean Years Tradition. Such an immensely interesting album, and afterward there was … nothing. I don't think anyone ever thought he'd become a mainstream musician, but if you ever get a chance to see him in the Golden State, let me know: I'll buy a ticket, too.

Jason said...

I don't suppose either of you ever got an inkling of what Jeremy Post may be up to in the 2010s? It's a question that comes to me from time to time. This is an incredible song, like so many from BES/ME.

Loren Eaton said...

Sadly, I haven't heard a thing, and I've searched for it, too. I'm afraid that Jeremy Post's career in music is over and done, and that's a crying shame.

Jesse Grisham said...

I haven’t heard anything either. I can’t even find him on social media. I echo the sentiment above: I would just like to sit down with him and pick his brain a while..

The Charlatan said...

Old post, I know, but I thought I would share some info. I love Model Engine and BES, and though I don't associate myself with Christianity anymore, I still think the lyrics and music with ME/BES is beautiful.

On that note, about 15 years ago or so I was obessed with archiving the 90s indie Christian music scene because old band sites were going down left and right, and I felt like the 90s had a ton of great musicians that weren't getting the airplay they deserved because they chose to work in the Christian music market. So one of the sites I archived with the old Model Engine site. I just forgot to put it back up until 'Scarred but Smarter' came up on my thumbs up list this morning. :-)

Here it is:
http://modelengine.astepintothedark.com/

Also, I emailed Erik Herzog (ME drummer) back in 2003, and he had a lot to share, but basically when ME came out, their style didn't work for what was cool in the 90s (which they thought ska was the musical fashion of the time), so record deals fell apart. According to Erik, Brad and Jeremy because professional pilots (commercial, IIRC) and quit doing music professionally. Erik kept playing music and was in band called Tracker part of FILMguerrero record label.

I too wish I could have coffee with the band and just have conversation about the past, present, and future, just getting a sense for what they think about the world today. Reading, growing in maturity and living a life with difference experiences and interacting with different people can really alter your point of view over time, and I think it's fascinating to see where all of us end up as a result.

The Charlatan said...

**According to Erik, Brad and Jeremy became* professional pilots (commercial, IIRC)

Loren Eaton said...

Wow, this is truly awesome. Good for you for saving that old site. And, uh, "old" is definitely the operative word. It looks like it came straight out of the GeoCities era. Just out of curiosity, did you have any involvement with Dime Store Prophets? I saw them with Black Eyed Sceva in, oh, 1997. They also seem to have gone the way of the wind.

Part of my sadness over not having a Jeremy Post solo album is related to your sentiment about perspectives changing over time. Post had such a unique and thoughtful outlook on life that I'd love to see where he is as a middle-aged man.

(Also, this is probably none of my business, but I do hope you'll continue to consider Christianity as time marches on. As I age, I think about Augustine near death and learning that Rome had fallen. He said, "Since when did you believe that men had the power to build things that are eternal? Your souls, filled with the light of the Holy Spirit, will not perish." Poignant and applicable given this subject matter.)

Jason said...

Thanks for all you've written here, gentlemen. The copy of the old BES site is a treasure...

So, this may be interesting -- I ran across a review of the Model Engine album on Amazon that was written by a friend of Jeremy Post's in CA. I was considering leaving a comment on the Amazon review and linking to this blog post, to provide a means of connecting if he wanted to. It's a longshot, but what do you guys think? @Loren I wanted to also check whether you would even want a link to your blog made like that.

Loren Eaton said...

Jason,

Absolutely! Go for it.

The Charlatan said...

FWIW, looks like Jeremy Post is alive and kickin:
https://www.instagram.com/j.postproduction/

That said, on a somber note, Eric Herzog (ME drummer) passed away a three or four years ago.

Loren Eaton said...

I am very, very sorry to hear about Herzog's passing. It's always painful to lose someone so young.

Regarding Post, who would've thought he'd shift from music to woodworking and jiu-jitsu?

Justin Norman said...

Jeremy responded to a comment on Instagram on April 10th, 2022. The comment: "Is this a hint at new music from Model Engine / Black Eyed Sceva?"

His answer:
"No, but if I can get my act together, I’d like to drop that hint later this year."

Link to the post:
https://www.instagram.com/p/CcL8mzRlnSq/

Loren Eaton said...

This is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing.

Jesse Grisham said...

After all these years, I'm still following the comments on this post! I'm following Jeremy now on Instagram. Fingers crossed he puts something out.

I'm a record producer now, and what I wouldn't give to work with him on a project. Maybe I should reach out and see...