Jon James Is Dead

Music // Clutching At Straws (2019)

Clutching At Straws

by Jon James Is Dead

Released 01/04/2019
Released 01/04/2019
Ambitious in scope yet intimately confiding, Clutching At Straws is a wide-angle glimpse into both the light and the shadow of human attachments.
  • 00:35 Lyrics Buzzsaw No. 1

    Can a man press his flesh
    Through a brick wall, mistress?
    Can he pierce your tender heart?
    The broken and unspoken recesses?
    Sleepless, but up to fit it all together
    I took a piece
    You took a part
    I laid it out
    You did your hustle
    That’s where the buzzsaw met the muscle

  • 03:50 Lyrics Rule This Heart

    Ain't no room 'round here for a coward
    Never wanna let another single thing but love
    Rule this heart

    And since the moment that we met
    There's been a river racing
    Appetite I can't whet
    A tiger's tail I'm chasing
    Smile that I can't forget
    Fingers interlacing
    You cut a mighty silhouette
    A body for embracing

    Money and fame
    Vanity and power
    Never wanna let another single thing but love
    Rule this heart
    There's so much sadness
    And dream gone sour
    Never wanna let another single thing but love
    Rule this heart

    Now there's somethin' stirrin' deep inside
    It's like a soul connection
    Nothin' left I wanna hide
    Show every imperfection
    Ain't no use feigning pride
    I'm raining down affection
    Tell you when our eyes collide
    It's like a resurrection

    Money and fame
    Vanity and power
    Never wanna let another single thing but love
    Rule this heart

    Now I've got mystic fingertips
    To pull your guard down, gorgeous hipster
    Up 'til now they've been eclipsed
    But soon you're gonna part your lips
    And sigh a little sigh
    The language universal
    Sizing you up with my eye
    For the undress rehearsal

    Come on, girl, let me pull that guard down
    Never wanna let another single thing but love
    Rule this heart
    It's hard enough livin' in this hard town
    Never wanna let another single thing but love...

    Ain't no room 'round here for a coward
    Never wanna let another single thing but love
    Rule this heart
    So come on down from your fortress tower
    Never wanna let another single thing but love
    Rule this heart
    The clock's windin' down to the bedroom hour
    Never wanna let another single thing but love
    Rule this heart

  • 04:30 Lyrics Sailor's Son

    Was a bun from a broken oven
    Son of a gun, too down for lovin'
    Labor pains
    Out of the womb, sold into slavery
    Matter of fact, no knack for bravery
    Lazy brains
    Must admit misfit to mingle
    Dragged to the dock, locked up
    In jingle-jangle chains
    Packed onto a ship gone sailin'
    Declared a prayer for all my failin'
    All my stains
    But I ain't got no complaints

    I'm like a monkey man, stranded
    Ain't no sight of dry land
    Let the waves alone decide
    No tide to wash me shore side
    The ship done flipped
    The junk got dunked
    Whole damn trip defunct
    Here I am
    One lonesome punk with no catamaran
    Out here swearing
    Like a sailor's son

    Admiral of a one man navy
    Master of a steadfast maybe
    And all's quiet on the ocean
    Save for the din of dumb emotion
    I flirt with fate
    Rectify my name Confucius
    Lucifer, I heard you're ruthless
    Float and wait
    Jesus Christ, I'm shark bait
    Twice as many transgressions as vices
    A reprobate
    How do you make the crooked straight?

    Is it surprising?
    There ain't no disguising
    Sad-faced clown busted all his balloons

    Guess I'll be out here a spell
    Better find a cheap hotel
    Hey now, Ahab, what's it to you?
    I just do how my daddy do
    And I do it well
    Hitch a ride on a leisure liner
    Or take an easy swim to China
    Call my bluff
    Sudden squall, the walls are cavin'
    Second rate mate, ain't worth savin'
    And that truth is tough
    I ain't never been smart enough

    Lonesome boy from Illinois
    That's the real McCoy
    And there ain't no sea
    Just a river in me
    And some misty history
    Twisted heart on hobbled knee
    Pullin' hard for victory
    So here I am, deliverin' my plea
    With a whisper

    My fair liver, she's a-failin'
    Firewater needs a-bailin'
    Lovely ladies all a-wailin'
    When they finally drive the nail in
    Suit and tie will come in handy
    And I'll don 'em like a dandy
    Call the tailor
    Crack the brandy
    Have one for the sailor

    Sailor's son

  • 03:50 Lyrics Haberdashery Soul

    You’ll never know, never know
    Never know the feeling
    You break ‘em all, break ‘em all
    Broke me, but I’m healing
    Slowly now, get reborn, learn to crawl
    Brand new baby
    An invisible phoenix like you
    Jonny come lately

    But — oh — I ain’t jaded

    When it comes to these matters
    What matters is heart
    No matter mine’s in tatters
    Still mad about you
    Mad hatter, but I’m dashing
    Haberdashery Soul

    Surrender my soul, lost control
    When her choir began sounding
    Fluttering like a butterfly stuttering
    With the kick drum pounding
    Quickening then, wore me out
    Every artery flowed wide
    An unreachable phoenix like you
    Jonny come bowtie

    The second you smiled, how the water went wild
    From the moment you spoke, how the levy done broke
    Once he’s facing a wave of divinity
    How does a man stop that?
    An impossible phoenix like you
    Jonny come tophat

    But — oh — I ain’t fadin’

    I’ve been riding the rhymes
    Of a mercury buzz
    Climbing the rungs of her ladder
    If only because

    Mad hatter for the fashion
    Mad hat, peculiar passion

  • 03:18 Lyrics Spit & Electric

    Inundated from all angles
    Verifiably certified
    For the circus
    For the long, slow ride
    For the exercise
    For the curve of the thigh
    For the sideshow
    Mmm, for the sideshow
    Kitten with a whip taming her ringmaster
    On the sly
    On the down low
    On the lips
    All spit and electric

    Plug me in, mom, to the anarchy
    I'm the half-life of the party
    But I'm for atoms
    For anatomy
    Mr. Positivity
    For the parts
    For the panties
    Mmm, for the sideshow
    Mmm, for the sideshow
    Kitten with a whip taming her ringmaster
    On the sly
    Kissed her on the down low
    On the lips
    All spit and electric

    I'm in love with can-do attitude
    Results of the recent campaigning
    Indicating state-of-the-state still standing
    Still remaining
    Oh, the whip and the tickle
    Hangin' out with will and it's a dilly of a pickle
    Kitten with a whip taming her ringmaster
    She strum the lyre
    Ooh, she play it fickle
    Kissed her on the lips
    A vagabond and his ripple
    And how I latch
    How I latch
    To the notion
    I took a sip
    All spit and electric

  • 03:25 Lyrics Sad Solo Violin

    She grew up in the depression
    While her momma was bathin’ in the bathtub gin
    Tryin’ to guess when the next axe was gonna fall
    Walkin’ on needles and pins
    Shut off her facial expression
    Not a hint of emotion, no kissin’ kin
    No rest, weary, hit the wailing wall
    Praying for some light within

    She dream sometime of a wedding gown
    All the loneliness wearin’ thin
    But nobody likes no Debbie Downer
    Sad solo violin

    Some days feel light as a feather
    Most days are heavy as a Mickey Finn
    She dress to the nines but don’t care at all
    Stranger in her own skin
    Change her mind like the weather
    And today a big hurricane’s blowin’ in
    Waves crest, pull back the wrecking ball
    Knock it down, build it up again

    She dream sometime of a victory crown
    What it might feel like to win
    But nobody likes no Debbie Downer
    Sad solo violin

    Well, here come the old brass knuckle
    Time to take another one on the chin
    She confess there’s feelings that she can recall
    Ain’t hardly worth rememberin’
    Will she bend, yeah, will she buckle?
    Will she end up in the looney bin?
    Cuckoo’s nest, locked up in a padded stall?
    Dancin’ with her evil twin?

    She dream sometime she’s the talk of the town
    Not a wannabe has-been
    But nobody likes no Debbie Downer
    Sad solo violin

    She dreams sometime she can turn it around
    But she don’t know where to begin
    Noboby likes no Debbie Downer
    Sad solo violin

  • 03:59 Lyrics Ms. Skittish

    I took the doom train downtown to where the land fell off
    It was a free fall, taller than a single bound
    Lower than the lowest low of the black and bluest hole
    My cape tangled on the flagpole
    Hung me in my underwear

    What’s under there
    And why do you hide your heart?
    Was it a mood swing?
    Was it contact sport?
    Was it a fling?
    Was it the ring that cut it short?
    We had a sweet thing, though, didn’t we, Ms. Skittish?

    I took her yellow belly uptown—I threw the cab fare down
    She was a five-foot-nine tall drink o’ runaround
    And I was nothin’ but her teddy bear
    Plush and sleazy

    Tenderloins and the hip joints are where the pain sets in
    It’s all a meat trade
    But cleaned for the supermarket
    Bolt shock
    Bones to the stock
    Sayonara to the hands of the clock
    I held you up as a sacred cow
    And you kicked me

    Lingerie that Saturday
    Then I was out on my crown in the cold
    I was a good king
    Brought her everything
    Suffered the sting

    We had a sweet thing, you dirty R.A.T.

  • 02:41 Lyrics Cold Bloodletter

    Wrote an open love letter
    Such a go-getter
    I was rabid
    When I met her
    Bitter as she were
    Wouldn’t know no better
    What sweetness is
    Just a cold bloodletter
    I went to pet her
    She plum
    Never deader
    Chilly as she were
    Wouldn’t know no better
    How to start a fire
    Don’t count me in
    When you take attendance
    I do commend you
    For fortitude
    And independence
    We had a roll
    Wasn’t quite transcendent
    Sucked my soul
    Like a slow death

  • 00:34 Lyrics Buzzsaw No. 2

    Now I’m a man
    Just that
    No more
    Maybe a few less hits than misses
    But I’ll press these lips against your neck
    And penetrate
    With kisses
    Takes an easy game to get up all under your bustle
    But it’s your heart I’m aiming for
    So damned much blood lost in the tussle

  • 03:20 Lyrics Heat

    Crash into this apartment
    On the Northeast end
    Sleepless between cold sheets
    Thinkin' of ladyfriend
    Trains and trucks always haulin'
    Horns and whistles blow
    I touched her face
    And viciously everything came aglow

    Can you feel it rise?

    Wanted the violent rapture
    Or so I used to think
    She turn me on so much more
    With just a subtle wink
    So long the night seemed broken
    But then she made it mend
    Don't know what I was smokin'
    But felt it all ascend

    I tell you mistress, you're some looker
    Pulse is poundin' in this pressure cooker
    Muscle, tenderizing
    Buzzsaw, all this courtship hustle
    Goddamn deep you cut me woman
    Yeah, I got a coat full

    So, mistress
    Do you want to buy a watch
    From Mr. Petty Crime?
    I hear he lives underwater
    Enjoys doin' the time
    Got dunked in her aquarium
    Breathed in and took a drink
    Gracefully inked
    Some skin was pale
    Some of the other, pink

  • 03:33 Lyrics #violetmelvina



    Do well and remember that I’ve been just as wounded as you – detached from the love of the universe and drifting out in this emptiness. Half-hearted hell.

    I let you rule that November with some pain I pretended was truth. Punch-drunk. Never-ending bender. You: shifting. Empty. Full. Push or pull. Hardly could tell.

    Rip, rip, rip open this heart. Expand. Did you want a man? Or just indifference? Whatchu gonna understand with all of that cold defense, Violet?


    Oh, it ain’t like I need ya.

    You came, rekindled an ember; brought a fire to this belly anew. All of the old weight… tired burdens were lifted. Tasted like happiness, or some such spell.

    But to you – oh, I’d never speak a word untrue. I was rubbed raw, bleeding, blue. Screwed my mind up and tweaked me out. Blitzkrieg, then an instant blackout. You hit me like a perfect fit.


    Nothing come of the investment plan

    Surrender my demand

    A pauper on a pittance

    Wrote a script and it was panned by her cool audience

  • 02:39 Lyrics How We Split The Scene

    The pillowcase
    The scent of you come ache into my pulse
    Good golly, Mol
    Miss Mystery
    The pushes and the pulls
    You had me at the sugar rush
    We ditched the spoons and bowls
    Had me eating out of your hand
    Crush between two souls
    I sang of Froot-Loops™ once before
    In days of sugar yore
    So if you can, come, Toucan Sam
    With alms to help the poor
    Follow the nose
    It always knows sweet kindness to the core
    Deep in the gut
    Still kickin’ there
    A love forevermore
    Good gol, Miss Mol
    Avocado Moondoll
    One sip tasted
    Then you breathed it
    Was it a clean agreement, hon
    Or filthy lucre in the long run?
    “I wish you were some money man”
    That’s how she spilled the beans
    I guess I ain’t worth a shit to her
    Unless I got the means
    To bring her every trinket ever wanted
    In daydreams
    I guess a token bloke ain’t enough
    How we split the scene

  • 03:14 Lyrics Extra! Extra!

    Extra! Extra!—a dozen for a dime
    Talking heads, gasbags—preach the next headline
    Panic on the increase; the signal on decline
    What you gonna believe gettin’ harder to define
    Exposes, disclosures—pic  puppet show
    Let’s break to check the weather

    Partly sunny—politic & crime
    Frame the spin and stick the pins—it’s voodoo by design
    Kick ‘em where it counts—nobody toe the holy line
    Lookie there, new movie star—but how long will you shine?
    Come and thumb your noses—make the world eat crow
    Confiscate the blood money—everything they owe
    Update in Alaska
    It’s 31° below
    Barrow—northernmost town
    Barren—white-out all around
    Snow globe—oil beneath the ground
    Christmas is coming
    It’s time for a word from our sponsor

    Extra! Extra!—a way to pass the time
    Six o’ clock supper—soak it all in while you dine
    To the easy chair, then—the feet up and recline
    Fade into indifference—another glass of wine
    One more dull day closes—mind growin’ slow
    Ain’t it kinda funny, this—all you’ve come to know
    There goes my man Moses—ducks all in a row
    Hands full of commandments—tryin’ to stem this flow
    Stop, friend—smell the roses—still a long way to go
    To the land of milk & honey
    Reality show

  • 01:15 Lyrics Buzzsaw No. 3

    I went down-down-down to the doctor for to cure what was ailin’
    I was a hard-headed runaway had a broken heart, failin’
    And she weighed hard-hard-hard on my back, y’all
    Two bricks shy of slavin’
    How I believed the whip of pain
    Oh, there was nothing’ left worth savin’
    And yes it’s all ‘bout fallin’ in love
    Pocket rocket puffin’
    The air all sucked out of the room
    And I just can’t hear nothin’ but the sound of the ground that waits
    Alive, and fully breathing
    A mortal wound you plunged here in the breastplate
    Babe, my chest is heavin’
    Right here

  • 03:37 Lyrics The New Math Lament

    And so she left me

    And there she was
    Evening coffee in the doorway
    Naked as a jaybird
    And she shook me
    And I took her to the bedroom
    Where I felt the veil drop from my vision
    From the telly
    From the radio
    From the digital intrusion
    From the zero to the one
    But she raised my amazement

    And she might have been kinder
    Might have been lukewarm, at least
    Night of the sidewinder
    Night of the fatal bite
    Night of the dark releasing
    From the hell of a dreamscape video
    To the electrical infusion

    A taste of the poison
    Between her double-dealin’ teeth
    Where she shimmy
    Pin me down beneath
    Where I felt the alchemy
    Of a nervous system
    Oh — she shut me out
    She shut me down
    Looked in her eyes
    And then I kissed ‘em
    From the six
    To the nine
    To the side
    From the one to the great divide
    Fully intact to open wide

  • 03:32 Lyrics Love Showing

    Build things, tear things down
    Economy and ivory tower
    Scrape skies with tall tales
    Liars in spires
    Seats of power
    Brother off his brother
    Build another
    What is man here to do but love
    And be merry in the knowing?

    Love showing

    Bilderbergs wear the crown
    I heard you been reckless with our hearts
    Naughty landlords
    Crooked men
    Binge, my Lord, I’m all in
    Purge, my Lord, I’m crawlin’

    She fit me like a glove
    And she was glowing
    Love showing
    Saw how all was one
    There was a garden there
    And it was growing
    And God was with us, wheezing
    ‘Cuz the allergy had become seasonal
    Got reasons for believing
    Mother Nature ain’t no high treason, girl
    All the same
    All suffer
    But there’s a balm to buffer

  • 04:21 Lyrics Boy In The Bubble

    Honey, if your mind can tackle it
    I’ll appetize you with some hype
    My conception was immaculate
    Go on and put that in your pipe

    Well, my conception was deliberate
    For carryin’ on the family name
    I guess you could consider it
    A gamble or a guessing game
    I was lackin' in immunity
    Disease spreadin' far and wide
    Baptized me into the community
    And then they locked me up inside
    Pet project of my physician
    Ticket to his fortune and fame
    But I’m sendin’ him out a-fishin’
    Skunkin’ his appetite for acclaim

    The boy in the bubble

    Now, my momma, she goosed and she coddled me
    She know I’ll never be athletic
    I’m ponderin’ Zeus and Aristotle
    Refinin’ my sense of right aesthetic
    Thinkin’ somehow I could jettison
    The intervention of my medic
    Mixin’, matchin’ medicine
    But nothing can relieve me of this headache

    The boy in the bubble
    Ain't no cure

    It’s a world full of limited choices
    All the blind white noise – insanity
    Ricochet of my echoin’ voice
    Is shootin’ holes in my juvenile vanity

    Outside there’s war and even more
    I’m growin’ hungry for distraction
    All this sterility, such a bore
    Longin’ to contaminate myself with action
    All of my young life I’ve been tortured
    By the wiles of feminine beauty
    Tied up down in this apple orchard
    Never pickin’ no fruit – too bound by my duty
    Thinkin’ right up until recently
    The compulsion would abate
    Takin’ all my common decency
    And I’m checkin’ at the gate
    (I’m breakin’ out)

    The boy in the bubble
    Ain’t no cure
    No, no

    Honey, did you know
    I play the rubber band?
    I’m the original plastic man
    And I’m crackin’

  • 04:28 Lyrics Ol' Jailbreak Scat

    So sick and tired of keeping all under control
    Been many years now since I sold my soul
    Pleasantly pleasant—that’s always been the goal
    Cavin’ in to the opinion poll

    I said I’ll race ya to the watering hole
    You’ll never beat me to the punch bowl
    Two-bit troubadour livin’ on the public dole
    Two shots of anything and a jelly roll

    Killin’ my thinkin’
    Drinkin’ whiskey, drinkin’ wine
    Ol’ jailbreak scat always rule my mind

    When I was a babe my daddy brought on a wet nurse
    Suspicion he was up to something worse
    She weaned me off the breast and introduced me to a curse
    Kept a bottle hidden in her purse

    So sorry momma ‘bout the leavin’ you behind

    A quiet devotee of hidden hope and mirth
    Uphill proposition tryin’ to prove my worth
    Can’t hardly help it if I’ll never rule the earth
    Throw up my hands and praise the virgin birth
    A man in bondage always longin’ to be free
    Out there somewhere maybe a home for me
    Some sleepy hideaway sippin’ afternoon tea
    Some misty mountaintop monastery

    It’s mostly mundane but the glimpses are divine 

Spurred by divorce and all the attendant fallout – Clutching At Straws traverses themes from love to obsession, sensuality to despair, liberation to claustrophobia, elation to desperation. Taken as a whole, the album plays akin to a movie soundtrack, with a broad sweep of styles ranging from folk to glam rock, and lyrical proclivities lending nod to Dylan-esque wordplay on the one hand and the colorful theatrics of Stephen Sondheim on the other.

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