“He is absolutely alone and trembling on the brink of oblivion – which is at the same time the brink of infinity.” Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death, p. 91. Pacific Oblivion was to have been our first full-length release as JUNGLE, following our debut EP that came out before we had played our first concert – an unpublicized evening as the soundtrack to a barbecue at the Triage Shelter, an emergency housing project on Powell Street in Vancouver, during the summer of 1997. Days later, we made our 'public' debut at Celebrities, the popular gay nightclub on Davie Street that during the 1960s, under the name Retinal Circus, had played host to concerts by the Velvet Underground, Peanut Butter Conspiracy, and others. This concert was a benefit for A Loving Spoonful, the Vancouver non-profit providing decent, healthy meals to people living with HIV/AIDS in the Lower Mainland, for whom I made weekly deliveries at the Portland Hotel in the city's Lower Eastside. We had recorded that first JUNGLE EP about a block away from the Portland at the Miller Block, a studio space run by Darryl Neudorf, and just a couple doors down from Save On Meats, with its rotating neon pig sign. That first EP took three days, with producer Pete Bourne (also drummer for Copyright) at the controls. For the follow-up, we enlisted Darryl Neudorf as producer and engineer. As a band, we had built up a bit of momentum by this point in time. In the ten months following that evening at the Triage, we had opened for April Wine in Washington (a gig for which our principal patron Uncle Kenny had rented a school bus and brought a contingent of East Van faithful down to celebrate with us) and for Enuff Z'Nuff in Surrey (the perennially doomed glam metal pop group from Chicago -- “Where are all your friends?” they asked us as they scanned the near-empty nightclub); and toured as support for the reunited Grapes of Wrath. We played a double bill at the deceased Starfish Room in Vancouver with Checo Tohomaso and the V.O.C. Soul Gospel Choir. And we threw our own concert with a Persian troupe of belly dancer and musicians. It was, all in all, a very good year. And so we set out with Darryl to capture a bunch of our songs in the studio, investing a considerable amount of time in doing so. For me, the most memorable part of this whole experience was that when it came time to cut the lead vocals, I -- how shall I put this politely? -- flat out blew. Couldn't nail the tricky high parts. Gave lacklustre performances on the songs closer to my actual range. I vividly remember lying on the floor of the studio while Darryl in the control room got the tapes ready for me to sing over, and as I stared up at the vocal mic, hearing Lou Reed's “Sword of Damocles” playing through my head. At some point, Darryl had to devote more and more time to his coming lawsuit against Sarah McLaughlin, and I had come to despair of my own ability to pull this thing off at all. I started to believe that the recordings lacked the necessary punch to inspire a decent lead vocal – an ingenious instance of outsourcing responsibility. Shortly thereafter, we shook hands with Darryl and walked away (not before presenting him with a Pablo Cruise shirt – the group that had served as a musical guiding light for the sessions). Around this time, we enlisted Doucette and Loverboy engineer Keith Stein to record us across the street from the Miller Block at Studio 54, a new living/rehearsal/recording space shared by JUNGLE bassist Hamm and Flash Bastard's Pete Mills. We recorded the self-produced Long Time No See in a weekend, and despite Keith and mixer Dave Ogilvie's valiant efforts, the music sounded pretty thin. In August of 1999, two years after our live debut at the Triage, and mere weeks before the Long Time No See release party, I walked away from JUNGLE and my life in Vancouver to return to my parent's basement in Saskatoon, complete a Bachelor of Arts degree, and eventually begin the process of theological education. Months after graduating from seminary, in the fall of 2011, I ended up back in Vancouver. I had come to see the reunited Monkees perform at Red Robinson's casino in Port Coquitlam. The ever-dysfunctional Monkees imploded before the Vancouver date, but I came anyways, and on the night I was to have been listening to “Last Train to Clarksville,” I ended up in a studio with my former JUNGLE bandmates, listening to “Midnight Limousine” and the rest of the unfinished album we had started with Darryl over 13 years before. To my amazement, the stuff sounded really good – and I longed for another chance to sing these songs I had written (I had spent the precious decade largely retired from doing my own music, but the week before coming to Vancouver, on a whim, had asked the promoter of a Peter Case concert in Saskatoon to give me a spot on the bill, and I had gotten the chance to share the stage with another hero of mine). Two months after that evening, I made another trip to Vancouver, this time reuniting with JUNGLE for a performance at the Mint Records 20th Anniversary party (JUNGLE had recorded for Scratch, not Mint, but I had made an album on Mint [as the Mark Kleiner Power Trio, recorded at the aforementioned Studio 54, and including remakes of a couple songs from Pacific Oblivion]). That was on the Friday night. On the Monday morning, I was in the studio with Hamm at the controls, and started to cut the vocals for the album. By Thursday, we were done. Alleluia! Hamm, Tim and Erin got to work on recording horns, strings, and percussion, and brought in Kurt Dahle (my MKPT compatriot) to sing back-up vocals. Darryl agreed to come back on board and mix the record. This entire process took quite a bit of time, but as Ringo says, “time takes time,” and 15 years after starting down this water-logged road, Pacific Oblivion was complete. In reflecting back on my time with JUNGLE in general and the making of this album in particular, certain things that seemed important way back then no longer have much resonance. For instance, we had originally imagined calling this record Endangered Species, packaged in a cover resembling a wooden crate. The concept played into our self-congratulatory, self-designated place as carriers of the torch of good time rock 'n roll, a genre commonly dissed in our late 1990s environs (when JUNGLE came back from touring Slovenia in 1998, the man at the border grilled me about what kind of music we play, and when I told him, he responded, “You were born in 1970...How do you remember good time rock 'n roll?” I thought I had started to actually inhabit the stream of music videos that constantly ran through my brain). In 2013, raising the banner for one stylistic art form versus another makes little sense in an anything goes, poly form digital universe. Back in 1998, such stylistic pronouncements were positively de rigueur, but today sound like so much hot air. Another thing: as JUNGLE, we never celebrated small. We wanted to be huge, Rolling Stones-big, epic, archetypal. And as such, on our terms, we were an unmitigated failure. The fact that we came to embody within our own history the triumph of failure so celebrated within the 1990s zeitgeist, a self-defeatist orientation we as a band so ardently rejected (”Surely they doth protest too much!”), makes for exactly the type of ironic epitaph that we, in our arrogance, no doubt richly deserve. But, funny enough, the end was not in fact the end. While I had fled from Vancouver, largely, I now believe, in terror (one of my last memories from that fateful summer of 1999 was visiting a friend and fellow musician's loft -- across the street from the Miller Block, as it were -- and climbing up a rickety outdoor fire escape staircase to get to the roof – looking over my shoulder at the alleyway far below and feeling myself hanging precariously in the balance), and while I could go on at length about the savagery of the city's (starting with this longtime resident's own) dangerous disposition towards apathy (masquerading as 'acceptance'), something that made a Robert Pickton possible, I now find such ruminations largely beside the point. What is the point then? Love. I will be more specific if you swing by on a Sunday morning, but for this space, suffice to say that love reigns, love endures, and love wins. And for all my loveless thoughts about Vancouver as the vain beast of a city smothering me in her tresses and having drunk dry the blood of my youth (for which, I now realize, I am forever indebted), I today behold her as a radically different city, a city I dearly, dearly love. As much as I threw darts at her back in the day with a longing to rise phoenix-like from her ashes riding a career arc super nova, I now praise the Lord that this never happened, and that I get to once again play this music with my three dear friends. And guess what? This album, composed and performed amidst so much delusion and desire to be 'anywhere but here,' is – in my obviously flawed, biased, and, who knows, perhaps just as or more deluded estimation – nothing short of a sonic love letter to the city that today lives so fiercely in my heart. I would have been horrified to realize back in 1998 how much I was writing and celebrating our hometown – not always as it was, but certainly as I imagined and dreamed and wished it to be – a city perhaps more mythical than factual, but the dream would not have been possible without the reality, and thank God for both. Alright, that's more than enough from me. Thank you for sharing this piece of my heart. Keep shining. Mark Kleiner Biggar, SK May 16, 2013