In naming their latest EP The Good Years, you could say that Death Party Playground is cheekily using a bit of irony. The title can be interpreted in different ways based on current global events, but in actuality, it’s an honest reflection on singer, songwriter, and guitarist Kyle Taylor’s recent hot streak of creativity.
Things were looking up at the beginning of 2020, with the trio’s last album Little Joy just released and a lot of touring that was about to ensue… until the lockdown dashed all of those hopes and plans. With so much time spent isolated on his own, Taylor decided to take advantage of this unwanted freedom by finishing a bunch of songs that he had started to write in 2019. By the summer of 2020, he had also welcomed bassist Jesse Alarcon and drummer Matty Sawyer to the fold and by the wintertime, they were recording the tracks in their practice space with friend and producer Joe Shugan.
The Good Years acts as something of a reflection on the pandemic and all of the uncertainty surrounding it. Musically, The Good Years is defined by its Americana-tinged guitars, power-pop melodies, and Taylor’s strongest set of vocals yet, that he recorded all while locked down. The finished product is a musical evolution for Death Party Playground and a relatable piece of work for everyone who has had to endure the craziness of 2020 and 2021.
Joining us for a special guest blog today is none other than Kyle Taylor himself. In light of his recent visit to Broadway to see Bruce Springsteen, Taylor shares with us some musings on his favourite Bruces in the world and the influences they have individually had on him, or as he refers to it, “The Power of Bruce.”
“The Power of Bruce”
I just saw Bruce Springsteen on Broadway on September 1st, 2021, and let me just say, it was worth it. Worth the vaccines, the masks, the plane tickets, the COVID tests, the border security, all of it. However, seeing Springsteen on Broadway during a historic rainfall, which then shut down all subway services, to then walk over an hour in the storm back to the hotel, that was epic.
Here, let’s go for a walk.
Now, the show itself was amazing, but how fitting it was, having just been offered a glimpse into the soul (of humanity itself really) to then immediately be met with the grind of life. In this case, a simple trek in the rain, honking noisy traffic, and the occasional angry cry awaited us. Many lonely and indifferent streets to come, here we are at 43rd street.
My partner and I would have quite a bit of time to think on our journey home. Though I was still in the afterglow of the absolute gift that Springsteen on Broadway is, my mind began to wander anyway. Eventually, I realized, for a mysterious and amusing reason, I am strangely influenced by a triumvirate of Bruce’s. Let me just say, there are no better Bruces than Bruce Willis, Bruce Wayne, and Bruce Springsteen.
Passing 36th Street. Pretty wet.
Now, Bruce Willis is the greatest action movie star the world has ever seen, and Die Hard is not only a Christmas movie, but probably the best Christmas movie ever made. (I just wanted to see that previous sentence in print. Damn, that looks good.)
When I was 20 years old, I had a full-time job and little time for anything else. It was the first and last time I held a job like that, but it did at least manifest a little routine where I would stop by Blockbuster (can you believe it?!) on my way home. I’d buy two or three of their used DVDs for five or ten bucks each and watch them that night. Most of them were, shall I say, novice films. One fateful evening, however, I bought Die Hard. I’ve probably seen it 20 times now. Welcome to the party, pal.
Just passed 27th Street, and I start wondering, how many movies have I seen Bruce Willis in? I mean, greatest action hero aside, he isn’t my favourite actor. Yet, I might have seen his movies more than any other actor’s. I’ve seen all the Die Hards, of course. Pulp Fiction, no problem. Looper, Moonrise Kingdom, and Sin City, indeed. I’ve even seen pretty much all the throwaway films: Hart’s War, Mercury Rising, The Whole Nine Yards AND The Whole Ten Yards. Then there are those it breaks your heart to see him in: Air Strike, Acts of Violence, etc. I’ve seen those too.
For me, it’s pretty much John McClane. Here is a guy who is generally looking to stay out of trouble, but for whatever reason, keeps finding himself in it. He could walk away and let someone else handle it, but he never does. Perpetually underestimated, overcomer of impossible odds, and unkillable. His best films show Bruce usually as a character who steps up to the plate, but particularly when he doesn’t have to. Lots of people do this character well. Bruce Willis does it the best. Fiction? Yes. Inspiring? Always.
Made it to Horatio Street. There’s a pleasant-looking security guard on the night shift at Van Gogh Apartments. He sees us in the rain. There’s not a lot he can do, but I feel his sympathy.
Next up is Bruce Wayne. Batman. The Dark Knight. Not even a real person but he might as well be. I would wager that more people know who or what Batman is than maybe even the Beatles by now. Point is, the legend of Bruce Wayne is ubiquitous. Besides, any good story comes from a real place, and Bruce Wayne has them all.
I’ve known about Batman since my two or three-year-old brain came online. Toys, bedsheets, whatever. When I think about it, I learned about Batman before almost anything else in my life. I was five years old when my father brought home a life size poster of Batman from Batman Returns. I was afraid of it. I got over it though. Maybe it was one of the first fears I ever had to face.
I like Bruce Wayne. Is he sad? Definitely. Serious issues? This grown billionaire of a man dresses regularly as a giant bat and perpetually (and literally) fights the losing battle that is Gotham City, so yes. Issues.
But still, Bruce Wayne is an Elon Musk type who can do and have just about anything he wants and live just about anywhere in the world. He nonetheless stays in Gotham City and keeps it standing, over and over again. Why? Probably because he is the only one who can. I’m not sure that he really wants to, and he certainly doesn’t have to, but he does.
Also, Wayne Enterprises was able to put an orbiting Justice League Headquarters in space equipped with artificial gravity, teleportation capabilities and enough room to house hundreds, or maybe thousands of people. So there’s that too. But I digress.
It’s fiction, I know, and fantastical of course. We must remember, it is the reader who knows Batman is just a man. The criminals of Gotham City think Batman is a supernatural-bat-creature from hell and they are terrified of him. In every deranged kind of way, there is something inspiring about that.
Almost there! We stopped at Jubilee Market Place for some beer and snacks. We are already drenched, so we might as well be drenched with some beer and KitKats. There’s a nice security guard. He’s worried he won’t be able to take the subway home when he finishes at 2 am. We break the bad news. It gets me thinking about Bruce Springsteen again.
One of the first songs I ever heard was ‘Thunder Road.’ Though I don’t remember, it was my father playing it to me. I might not have been a year old yet. I heard it a hundred more times when he would play it with my mother at parties. ‘It’s a town full of losers, we’re pulling out of here to win.’ I heard ‘Nebraska’ for the first time when I was 19. My friend had a record player and a bunch of vinyl, so I put one on. I don’t remember why I chose ‘Nebraska,’ but I remember listening to it. I’ve forgotten many things, but not that. I heard ‘Darkness’ a few years later, although I knew some of the tunes already. ‘Promised Land’ just seared into my soul. ‘Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart.’ ‘The dogs on main street howl, because they understand…’ You know the rest. ‘And I believe in a promised land.’ Somehow, this man makes you believe.
There are so many songs I love, and so many lyrics I take with me wherever I go. It made me wonder what Bruce Springsteen was doing up there, on a stormy night in New York City, during a pandemic all by himself. For those who are interested in his work, he’s already given us enough. As a musician myself, I know he’s up there for himself as well. Each night we go up there searching for something, and each night we capture it for only a moment. But you never get to take it home. Still, I think maybe he is doing it because he is the only one who can. Fiction? Nope. He is The Boss after all.
Here we are, back at the hotel. That was one hell of a night. The power of Bruce compels you.