We've updated our Terms of Use. You can review the changes here.

An Illusion Against Death

by The Paperbacks

  • Streaming + Download

    Purchasable with gift card


  • Buy Disc

Its as rigid as a lunar sequence, and our months contract around this event: The silence that floods out of your room. The perversely common image of you with one arm dangling. Hesitate and the skin wont break; it just leaves a map of anguish on your wrists. Vials tipped so the contents slip. A Marat pose. This monstrous art. Hesitation marks. We have urns lined up on bookshelves. We've split up in shifts for bedside vigils. An epi-pen in every coat. We've amassed an arsenal you've absorbed with your cruel vanity. Hesitate and the skin wont break; it just leaves a map of anguish on your wrists. Vials tipped so the contents slip. A Marat pose. This monstrous art. Hesitation marks.
They stand shoulder to shoulder, their jaws tightened with grief. I stand as a translator. I lean in and repeat, "This is a lesson in history: The victors knew victory and the vanquished knew war. But, though their voice would come later, it's power was greater. They survived and endured. I'm coated with sorrow like fresh ice on a lake. Though periodically shattered, overnight it's replaced, because there are wall-scale projections of the most meaningless questions by the museum's store. And somewhere ashes still crackle and casualities stack until we can't see them anymore. The sputtering engines; the boundaries of will. The leaking containers you're reluctant to fill. Defining illusions, exhausted and old. Your shrinking perspective as it gets cold. Things I've deemed immutable, they were all vulnerable to change, while my most transient habits are almost all that remain. Life can float on the surface of things predetermined and wilt like brightening leaves, while you're enslaved by possessions, reflexive aggressions and ornimental misery. So let's take all this darkness, convert it to art, and scrape the rust from our souls. Crowd in to every omission with more extensive ambition than just damage control. Damage control...
Institutions 05:47
Light touches your eyes like an unfamiliar thing. The medication leaves you sensitive to its sharp florescent sting. But now I fill out forms to take you temporarily away...through bright corridors of airports, to hospitals in other States. Landing at St. Petersburg, I fumble with your hand, and explain again the situation in words I think you'll understand. Oh, if you could only map for me your madness...reveal an unseen code for all your sentences that are so awkward that they sound like palindromes. But instead, I answer my own questions. I speak to you across a gulf. I watch peripherally for baggage; you squint blankly at the wall. Brightly lit and dreary...brightly lit and dreary at the same time. Brightly lit and dreary...brightly lit and dreary at the same time. I've seen you in restraints before. I've seen you in a cage. I've seen your face consumed with fear as I've had those things arranged. I've watched anti-psychotics drain expression from your face. I've watched my remaining family occupy three feet of space. So when a silent, sullen intern puts our mothers hand in yours, and all I've tried to say gains meaning as some connection is restored, and theres a moment where youre lucid; let it not be in my head. I cant bear to lose the both of you: not now. Not again.
High Praise 04:02
I’m shocked both that you came and that the guest list included your name. You nod your head imperceptibly as you hand your coat to me. And you mutter on in an attempt at kindness. But it is only rhetorically distinguished from contempt. You’re scuttling downstairs. You commandeer the headliner’s chairs. You’re mispronouncing each band’s name, and you take their drinks, unashamed. And you mutter on in an attempt at kindness, but it is only rhetorically distinguished from contempt. Still, that’s high praise coming from you. High praise, indeed, though tentative and crude. High praise coming from you. But, oh, you’re still the same. She's scared to introduce a song fiercely directed at you. Her courage builds before she starts her set, but you’ve already left. And you mutter on in an attempt at kindness. But it is only rhetorically distinguished from contempt. Chorus.
And with my hair matted to the edges of my face, they detail processes they can’t yet undertake. But they will tentatively schedule some tests…and it gets too hard to hear the rest. There’s things they can’t identify (It’s at once concrete) to grant these symptoms a disease (and hallucinatory). Things get abstract before they disappoint me. Theories widening their eyes (It’s at once concrete) and then crumbling like a monarchy (and hallucinatory) Things get abstract before they disappoint me. And you send flowers, crisp and carefully arranged that befit a relationship too young to bear this strain. And various reasons for your absence are expressed…but it gets too hard to read the rest. You will not pull these curtains closed (It’s at once concrete) with an air of finality (and hallucinatory) No: Things will get abstract before they disappoint me. But there was uncertainty before. (It’s at once concrete) There’s a job offer in D.C. (and hallucinatory). Things get abstract before they disappoint me. Threats sharpen to blades, omnipresent but sheathed, and no one facilitates their release. (It’s at once concrete and hallucinatory) Things get abstract before they disappoint me. Every gift becomes a loan (It’s at once concrete). Every access point a breach (and hallucinatory). Things get abstract before they disappoint me.
We’re not rattled by failure now. We’re not rattled by failure now. We’re not rattled by failure now. We’re not rattled by failure now. Statements slurred, terms are altered. The air stalls as we venture out of key. And the words turn so vicious as these stakes that were so small get torn in three. Unlearned parts; a constant ringing; a smudged stamp on your hand and a vacant stare. Fed our hearts on this fantasy. Now these hearts have grown brutal from the fare. You pit art against reason. Though the two aren‘t opposed. This recurring theme contaminates your dreams. We’re not rattled by failure now. We’re not rattled by failure now. We’re not rattled by failure now. We’re not rattled by failure now. Absolutes and autumn deadlines: they just pass like a fever. Like idle dares. See this through. See it ending. You retreat to go dye your dulling hair. Standing mute as a starfish as the bright lights and music start to recede. It consecrates your dreams. We take failure for granted now. We maintain our feet on solid ground while it clings like a cloud of bees to me. A halo of sand in the cuffs of faded jeans. To wallpaper our room with rejection slips. To slowly wet the circumference of our lips and admit the coldest form of defeat: It was all just a dream.
All available light finds itself attached to you...and this, to relieve the things that you know I’m going through. As you speak them, words shake loose from resonance of common use. Tension transforms to tonic; something catches your eye...and we step out from the club where the music blasts so loud. We separate from a crowd that I could not care less about, as your hair coils and twists like miniature Möbius strips, reflecting slivers of streetlamp. You have upset the night with all available light. On a dreamless sleep’s vast landscape, or in a car, curled like a cat, or on a dance floor full of slack shoulders, or from a pocket of a fraying backpack...some gifts arrive in distressing disguises, but yours appear transparently; no grand gestures, no definitive statements. Just your remarkable glow. And all discomfort will bow to your luminosity as I stare in disbelief at all these things you’ve done for me. But I will promise this to you: whatever threatens to intrude that you may construe as darkness, then against this I will fight with all available light.
On a bus under a soft wash of dusk, you inspect your new community. Its dull lines cry out to be vandalized. Its muted tones clean and corruptible. And just when you’ve made peace with your new anonymity, you’re suddenly haemorrhaging almost everything that you believe, as the architecture you despise branches out. It multiplies. It slathers plasters here and there, uniformly unaware, and hey: it isn’t enough, now it comes for you. Your scars itch; your blood audibly aches as you take the same route everyday. And you resist, but your accent starts to twist. Within months, you sound like anyone. Chorus.
This was a fabulous reception, though it was all foreign to me. Or…it was a little less offensive than I thought that it would be. The platitudes and drinks just kept on coming, unrelieved, and their tones conveyed affection with a tinge of rivalry. And the tenured tilt toward you; they make motions with their glass like they’re hundred year-old parrots blurting curses from the past. And their anecdotes and witticisms coated by the heat; in the slow sway of its shimmering viscosity, they read: Publish or Perish…it’s up to you. In the corridors of power, through the Groves of Academe, there’s a labyrinth of fingers scrabbling above the weeds. And a whole English department is united by these things: a shared hatred of literature and other faculties. Publish or Perish…it’s up to you. From the manicured lawns, through the sound-proof highway walls, they can’t see the slink of river light and the torn scraps of cloud that sing to me.
Jenny...oh Jenny it’s strange to see the almost desperate urgency with which these guys will phrase their questions. And you look so radiant, yet visibly bored. You issue bland quotes they cannot distort or compress, because they’ve hurt you before. Do they know and do they care? Their lights just follow you everywhere. Though the things they do still seem intolerable to you it still looks like its settled in their favour. But, Jenny, I’ll be around. Met up with Kate and Andrew at Marshall’s Pub. I told them that you sent your love; they got wistful and changed the subject. But some ghosts, some ghosts they linger without pause due to Canadian Content Laws. Your song is playing on the ride home, and (chorus).
Take me walking through the streets outside my door. Show me something that I've never seen before, past the margins of abbreviated stares that reduce all objects to a scroll of passing fare. Slip through alleys, relieved of what they mean in the musty archives of childhood memory. Entire sections of the city at this time become deserted. I have no idea why. Skinny sidewalks taper off to small ellipses and unclear stops. A hidden city comes to light on skinny sidewalks. Your dorsal tattoo expands with every breath. The pale cilia on your belly trembles when we speak in sleepy, dehydrated monotones: the drowsy discourse of cartographers at home. Skinny sidewalks taper off to small ellipses and unclear stops. A hidden city comes to light on skinny sidewalks. The final strains of light that creep through broken blinds make patterns on your face. Tiny little lines that slowly intertwine until they fade away. I want to know you, I want to know you. All there is to know. You've always been here, You've always been here. Walk with me along skinny sidewalks...
It’s late. It’s just us alone in heaps at center stage among the programs and bouquets crushed on the floor. But we stay; we’ll frolic in the simulated snow and drown the memories of the show that still remain.These games of dress-up that consume us utterly. Oh, the pageantry, the empty seats, the lights. And, hey…will we be haunted by indifference and regret; the incalculable debt we’ll be stuck with? We try for something something lasting between the rentals and reviews.Oh that was such inspired casting. They do invigorate the room. And this alcoholic haze will ultimately fade, but what’s left, but what’s left…? And then one errant strand of hair slips from your braid, and it shivers with the cadence of your breath. You stretch; you’re sprawled out like a half-packed parachute, and every universal truth reveals itself. Chorus. These adrenalinic ghosts still linger in their hosts. That’s what’s left. That’s what’s left.
Translations 03:48
I pushed through a crop of Australian tourists, spilling kids drinks as I ran up the stairs just to find you...laughing that I‘d arrived. A couple of the doctors had mixed up some samples, and we both misinterpreted what they said identically. We’re so predisposed to tragedy. Mystery solved: there was no mystery at all. Mystery solved. It’s mask had collapsed and distracted us in its fall, but now we know. All through this life I’ve committed to nothing, to keep every option available, until it was clear that each door will close on its own. So here, as my shoes stick with congealed Pepsi to worn hospital floor, I want you to let me revise: you’re one thing I won’t compromise. Chorus.


An Illusion Against Death is a record that is criminally overlooked. Every song is terrific, the sound is crisp and lyrically it's deep and well thought but still completely accessible. They control the pace with slowed down organ laced ballads like In The Absence Of Notable Guests (the interplay between Doug and the female vocalist is terrific) and more driving rock songs like Rattled By Failure. Basically, this record has little to no flaws and can be listened to over and over and over again. - herohill.com, June 25, 2008.


released July 31, 2007

Doug McLean (Vocals, Guitars), Jaret McNabb (Bass), Jack Jonasson (Drums, Vocals, Percussion), Jason Churko (Guitars), Tanya Jonasson (Keyboards) and Mike Marshall (Guitars). Additional Musicians: Maria Bromilow (Vocals) and Rusty Matayas (Trumpet). Produced by John K. Samson. Engineered by Cam Loeppky. Recorded at Prairie Recording Co., Private Ear and John's basement. Mastered by Dave Gardner at Magneto Mastering. Design and Layout by Sarah Sangster. Photography by Doug McLean. all songs (c) 2007 Doug McLean/The Paperbacks. Produced with the participation of Manitoba Film and Sound.


all rights reserved



The Paperbacks Winnipeg, Manitoba

contact / help

Contact The Paperbacks

Streaming and
Download help

Report this album or account

If you like The Paperbacks, you may also like: