Devil in the Shortwave 1

Cover of Devil in the Shortwave Back of Devil in the Shortwave

Released: 2002
Label: Yo Yo

Liner notes

Up the Punx 2

Poltergeist is a Devil in the Shortwave outtake.

Table of contents

  1. Crows
  2. Genesis 19: 1 – 2
  3. Yoga
  4. Dirty Old Town
  5. Commandante


Well, I went way out North Carolina way
To that old graveyard where my great-grandmother lay
And the day was bright
And I hadn't slept all night
And they'd sold the place to some guys who were building graduate student housing

No one had raised any objections
They were knocking the headstones down
And the sun was high
When I rolled into town
Stood by a nameless hole in the ground
The air was sweet and hot
Maybe it was the right grave
Maybe not

But the crows, crows, crows
Rose, rose, rose from the grave
Yeah, the crows, crows, crows,
Rose, rose, rose from the grave

Genesis 19: 1 – 2 3 4

The girl who'd been haunting your dreams all your life
The butcher from Brooklyn, the butcher's wife
The girl who kissed you in the seventh grade
Her and all the others lined up behind the gate
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening5
When the sun up in the sky was bleeding all over you

And you had your camera
And you had your felt tip 6
And you had some money
And you had everything you needed
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening
They saw you coming up the boulevard
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening
When the sun up in the sky was bleeding all over you


We had our passports out and the kids to fix them up with
And the hurricane lamp threw our shadows on the ceiling
I watched them box with one another up there, Punch and Judy 7
It was lovely, it was awful, it was that kind of feeling
When you said, it was real sure, that there was nothing standing in our way
And the lie ran off and hid itself in the alleys all across Bombay 8

I saw you knock the lamp over while reaching for the scissors
And I wondered how we'd ever get by without it
And you fell into my arms then, sweet and gentle
Poison in the water, little doubt about it
And you said that one of us would be all alone someday
And the truth of it echoed inexhaustibly up and down the thoroughfares all across Bombay

Dirty Old Town 9 10

I found my love
By a gasworks croft 11
Dreamed a dream
By the old canal
I kissed my girl
By the factory wall
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

The moon is shifting
Behind a cloud
Cats are crawling
All along the beat
And springs a girl
In the streets at night
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

Heard a siren
Calling from the docks
Saw a train
Set the night on fire
I smelled the spring
On the smoky wind
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

I'm going to make
A good sharp axe
Shining steel
Tempered in the fire
Will chop you down
Like an old dead tree
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

Commandante 12 13

I'm gonna drink more whiskey than Brendan Behan 14
I'm gonna send my belongings all to Tripoli 15
And I'm gonna ride home to California
With a banjo on my knee 16

I'm never gonna to turn off the television
I'm just gonna let it run all night
I'm gonna plant root vegetables out in the back yard and
Come summer I am going to treat you right, so

Put on your Chairman Mao coat 17
And let me clear my throat
Let's turn this whole town upside down
Shake it till the coins come falling out of its pocket, yeah
Put on your Che Guevara pin 18
Call the troops on in
We're gonna sail through the night sky like a pair of bottle rockets 19 20

I got a great big secret written down somewhere
I got a rosary to protect us both from harm
I got a storage locker full of cow figurines
And a laundry list of grievances longer than my arm
And I am never going back to Cincinnati 21
All those bridges have been burned down to the ground
I got the jet pack strapped to my back
And I'm waiting for you to come around, yeah

Put on your Chairman Mao coat
And let me clear my throat
Let's turn this whole place upside down, yes
Shake it till the coins come falling out of its pockets, yeah
Put on your Che Guevara pin
Call the troops on in
We're gonna sail through the night sky like a pair of bottle rockets


A huge thank you to Caliclimber, from whose excellent Flickr page I stole the album art.

  1. Devil in the Shortwave, Nall, retrieved April 14, 2013.


  1. Shortwave radio uses frequencies from the top of the AM band to the bottom of the VHF band (just below FM). The main advantage of shortwave is its long-distance transmission capabilities. It is used for a variety of purposes, including general commercial broadcasting, amateur radio, ship and aircraft communication, international propaganda, utility stations, radio clocks, and numbers stations. 

  2. Seems to have multiple meanings depending on who is asked, and doesn't have one fixed definition. The best descriptivist definition I could come up with is that this phrase is used by punks to jokingly make fun of overenthusiasm in the punk scene, for genuine enthusiasm, or to ridicule people not considered to be in line with the punk ethos. See for example the Bomb the Music Industry! song (Shut) Up the Punx! 

  3. Genesis 19: 1 – 2 is part of the informal series of Biblical references

  4. "The two angels entered Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting at Sodom's gate. When Lot saw them, he got up to meet them. He bowed with his face to the ground and said, "My lords, turn aside to your servant's house, wash your feet, and spend the night. Then you can get up early and go on your way."

    "No," they said. "We would rather spend the night in the square." Genesis 19: 1 – 2, Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved March 22, 2013. 

  5. This is the opening phrase in the Biblical verse referenced in the title. Genesis 19 describes the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah for their sin, particularly regarding what was considered sexual deviancy (including a crowd insisting that Lot provide the two angels to them that they might have sex with them). In the Bible, Sodom and Gomorrah were ultimately destroyed by fire and brimstone sent by God, and Lot fled Sodom, during which his wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back at the destroyed city. 

  6. My best guess is that this refers to a permanent marker. 

  7. Punch and Judy is a traditional puppet show depicting the violent Mr. Punch, Judy, his wife, and other characters. 

  8. Bombay, now officially Mumbai, is the capitol city of Maharashtra on the west coast of India. It is India's largest city by population. 

  9. Dirty Old Town is part of the informal series of cover songs

  10. Dirty Old Town is a folk standard first written by English singer Ewan MacColl in 1949 and has subsequently been recorded by many groups, traditional and otherwise. It refers to the desperate industrial environment of Salford, MacColl's birthplace. 

  11. A croft is a fenced area of farmland. Here, it refers originally to the land near the Salford Gasworks. The canal mentioned is the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal. 

  12. John has described this as an "upbeat song about [a] couple consuming one another". January 27, 1999, Cat's Cradle, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 

  13. "Comandante" means "commander" in Spanish, and "commandant" is a military title whose precise meaning depends on the military in question. I do not know if John misspelled these words or if he meant something else.

    "Hasta Siempre, Comandante", is a song written by Cuban Carlos Manuel Puebla celebrating Che Guevara, mentioned later in the song. This may or may not have some relationship to John's choice of title. 

  14. Brendan Behan was an Irish writer, playwright, Irish Republican Army member, and notorious alcoholic who wrote Borstal Boy, an autobiography about being an Irish Republican and his subsequent imprisonment in the late 1930s and early 1940s while an adolescent. He ultimately died of diabetes secondary to alcohol abuse. 

  15. Tripoli is the capitol and largest city of Libya. 

  16. "With a banjo on my knee" is a line from the popular nonsense minstrel song "Oh! Susanna", written by Stephen Foster in 1848. 

  17. Mao Zedong, communist revolutionary and founding father of the People's Republic of China, was known for wearing a collared coat with four pockets, which became symbolic of Chinese communism. 

  18. Che Guevara was a Marxist from Argentina known for his involvement in the Cuban Revolution. An famous photo of Guevara, known as Guerrillero Heroico, has gained worldwide renown and has become a symbol of revolution, often placed on pins and t-shirts. 

  19. A bottle rocket is a generally illegal small firework intended to be fired into the sky, where it makes a small explosion. Initially, it is often placed in a small glass bottle to stablize it while it is lit. 

  20. This chorus has also been sung with the chorus lines of "Lace up your skates real good / Come on over to my neighborhood", "Put on your Chairman Mao hat / You look so goddamn cute in that", "Lace up your skates real tight / Be here by six o'clock tonight". See the Cat's Cradle show on January 27, 1999. 

  21. Cincinnati is a large city in Ohio.