Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Debriefing", North Star Deserter, 2007, Constellation Records

Over the course of his musical career, Vic wrote several songs that revolved around the principles of death. It was just in his nature to focus on the absolutes, I guess. And whether it be from a first person view or otherwise, the results were always chillingly poignant, however sad.

When I decided to name this blog "Debriefing," after this specific song, it wasn't only as a reflection of my love for the song (which I absolutely adore) but more so because I feel that the song conveys accurately Vic's personal journey and a furthermore, the journey that I myself am partaking in as a result of his passing.

A debriefing is a one-time, semi-structured conversation with an individual who has just experienced a stressful or life changing event. The purpose being to reduce any possibility of psychological harm, by allowing the victim to talk or reflect back on the experience.

So, this blog, by definition, is a one-time reflection back on the life and music of a man whom meant so much, to so many.

Unlike some of Vic's other 'mortality' songs, 'Debriefing' seems very matter of fact, and fearless. He has embraced the fact that we are all destined to die, and he addresses that from the very first line...not in a dejected way, but rather boldly. Here it is...this is what will be...just letting you know.
To say that he will be debriefing forever as a result of his life is a sad statement as to his opinion of his time spent here, with us. The very nature of a debriefing is for the victim to express there feelings one time, and as a result, be free of the pain or stress associated with the incident. Vic's anticipation of a forever diatribe is sad. I hope that it was merely being poetic, and not prophetic.

Musically, the song is a tour de force. The earliest recording that I have dates back to 1998, and is a sparse, lonely live version with just Vic and a guitar (and hauntingly, the listener can hear the faint rustlings of a child in the background playing). From that simplicity, came this monumental album cut. That whole album is a sonic wonder, with the guys from Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, the Tra La La Band, Guy Picciotto (from Fugazi) and producer Jem Cohen taking Vic's small-ish arrangements and magnifying them ten fold.

The track starts with whispers and dialogue, as if someone is being surrounded by a group, and the ethereal quality of the production sets an eerie tone. Vic's vocals are clear and direct and the music almost reaches a funeral march type tempo. As much as I love this arrangement, I am torn between the original and the re-worked. Regardless, no matter how sad and foreseeing the words may be, the song is amazing, and I'm glad that Vic committed it to tape.

Both versions are included below.


when I stop breathing
my poor old heart finally gives out
i will spend eternity
debriefing, debriefing, debriefing, debriefing.

when I deplete the funds
and am forced to pull the plug
chisel on my tombstone
debriefing, debriefing, debriefing, debriefing.


  1. I couldn't choose which version I better. Both kill me in different ways. Truly. Tears streaming down my face. I really wish I had really listened to him more. Had seen him in person. Not only do I mourn him but I mourn that time lost. Time when I should have listened. This particular song strikes such a personal chord with me that it just feels like he's speaking for me.

    Plus, Charles, your writing in this blog is very poetic itself.

  2. I never fail to be blown away by this song on North Star Deserter. By juxtaposing the two versions like this you've made me listen to the song in a new way. Sort of like tuning me more into the fragility that is at the centre of the sonic apocalypse of the NSD version. Thanks ...