Dear Mr. Bruce Springsteen,
I hope this finds you in good health and fine cheer in this new year.
I am writing, quite plainly, to ask who the hell you think you are. While the “world-at-large” waits with baited breath for your new record, High Hopes, to appear on shelves and streaming across the internet early next week, I wonder if they know what you’re really up to. While I don’t need to fill you in on the details, as this is an open letter a bit of backstory may be required for those still kept mercilessly in the dark.
In February of last year (on Valentine’s Day, to be quite precise), a limited edition LP was released on a small but venerable Western Massachusetts label called Open Mouth. This LP was my creation, born of my own sweat and not infrequent tears, and was titled (and of course you know this already) High Hopes.
Under cover of night in a barn in Haydenville, Massachusetts in the summer of 2012, Bill Nace of Open Mouth filled me with organic pizza and cheap gin while I set up my dusty old Califone cassette machines. Jake Meginsky arranged his microphones for recording and we quietly went about the work of capturing some of my cassette music for posterity. While the creation of the cassettes themselves had taken almost two years, the recording of the album was quick and painless. If memory serves, one of the machines jammed once and we had to start over, but other than that, what you hear on the LP is what happened right there in the “studio.” Jake and I did some mixing and very slight overdubs (I’m sure you already know where those are, so I’ll spare you the details) and that was that.
After its release in February, the album received a fair amount of praise in the cozy world of the underground, going so far as to achieve the coveted “Tip of the Tongue” position (I’m sure you’re familiar with that as well) over at Volcanic Tongue. It was called “new classic music” by Vital Weekly and a “remarkable achievement” by Swill Radio. The small run of LPs sold relatively quickly, and we all went on about our business. I have, of course, continued to create new tapes as I look ahead to whatever next year may bring, buoyed by the support of a small but dedicated underground.
And now you come along, assuming that since the LP has been sold out at source for the better part of a year everyone has forgotten about it and you can make your move, climbing my ladder of acclaim. I’m not sure exactly who tipped you to my music, but I have to wonder if when you were getting your picture taken with Dylan Nyoukis and Sharon Gal at that festival in July perhaps Dylan mentioned something. Maybe he even slipped you a copy of the Straw Hat for a Madman CDR of mine he released. Just because it was in an edition of 60 doesn’t mean people aren’t paying attention, Bruce. Get real. This is underground music in the digital age and everyone knows about everything. Or perhaps your knowledge of my career goes further back, to when a certain Ben Chasny likened my group Son of Earth’s Pet LP to Nebraska. I don’t know. And I don’t care, but I’m on to you.
I know it’s an impressive piece of work, Boss. I’m sure you, like many others, harbor a secret soft-spot for hopelessly distorted pianos, out-of-tune tape loops of string quartets, crudely-edited montages of breaking glass, and reverb-drenched choral samples, but for my money a “Nice job, Matt!” would have sufficed. I don’t see why you felt it necessary to poach the album title, slap it on that picture that looks like two of you exploding from the crotch, and pass it off as though it had been your idea all along. It’s sad. Or it makes me sad, anyway, and I’m sure it makes all of the Krefting fans out there a little sad as well. You should see some of the emails I’m getting. I mean, really. If you’ve been performing Tim Scott McConnell’s song “High Hopes” since “the 90s,” as you claim, why wait until this year to craft an album around a song with that name? Pretty goddamned transparent, sweetie.
You seem like an ok guy. Your vocal on Lou’s “Street Hassle” gets me every time. It’s great. Anyway, what I propose is a High Hopes Smackdown. You bring your crew up to Western Mass and we’ll go toe to toe. I’ll perform my album in its entirety, you perform yours. I’ll even let you go second so you can really milk the crowd for all it’s worth. And we’ll see who wins. I’m sure I can get us a show at Flywheel in Easthampton with enough notice. I could sue you, sure, but a Smackdown just seems more honest and fun. (Besides, the Open Mouth legal team happens to be comprised of the rather ineffectual duo Dungberg & Holmes, a “force” that has yet to emerge victorious in even a single case on behalf of the label.) So put your makeup on and put your hair up pretty, Boss, and come on up. My tape machines and I are waiting.