I Am Getting Older, and Logan Whitehurst’s “Goodbye, My 4-Track” is Paving My Path

The past few months of my life have brought upon me a terrible realization that has failed to go away: I am getting older.

I finished my last semester of college in December of 2023 and immediately found myself in the full-time work force. The age hadn’t set in, until I was peeing into a cup for a drug test to confirm my full-time status.

This was the next step in my life’s journey after all. Work until I die. I’m now waking up in the morning sore from the previous day’s work, only to go to work again. I have all the free time in the world once I get home but rarely want to actually do anything of note during that time (even some days, not writing this piece). This all led me to the conclusion that I am, in fact, getting older.

Now this might seem an over exaggeration for someone only at the ripe age of 23, 24 in about a month, but I’ve effectively been a kid up until now. I always had homework, hang outs and game nights with friends, and making financially irresponsible purchases to fall back upon in my quest for permanent youth, but the fate of becoming a real adult is nigh inescapable now.

In times like this, I go to what I majored in during college to ease my way into the vast void that is adulthood. As a scholar of media criticism, I can go to countless art forms that tell the stories of the exact situation millions of young adults have before me. There’s Richard Linklater’s “Slacker”, a testament to the adults who fall out of regular life and pursue their passions, Ben Stiller’s “Reality Bites”, where recent college grads come to terms with how the real world works, and James Merendino’s “SLC Punk”, about paving your own future no matter what the world suggests you do.

While all of these films speak to my beginning-life crisis that I think drastically altered the way I see the world, no medium has spoken to transitioning into adulthood quite like Logan Whitehurst and the Junior Science Club’s “Goodbye, My 4-Track” from 2003.

Logan Whitehurst was born in 1977 in California, and began playing music with indie rock band Little Tin Frog in 1995. He played as their drummer until 2000, all the while pursuing a solo career with his geek rock “band” the Junior Science Club.

His fourth studio album, “Goodbye, My 4-Track”, is why I have been writing all of this article over the past year off and on. Grappling with impending adulthood has been a bizarre and confusing adjustment, but I finally feel I am able to accurately describe my feelings through this amazing album.

The album opens with “A Brief Introduction”, literally, a brief introduction intro the albums concepts and soundscapes. Throughout Whitehurst’s career, a staple he has always fallen back upon is gathering sounds and ideas from cheap MIDIs, creative samples, and kids instruments and toys. Since a lot of the theming around Whitehurst’s music revolves around youth, theses added touches make his music sound homemade and uniquely nostalgic. Hearing the classic Fisher Price See ‘n Say toy introduce the album to me invokes a reminder of a time before tax season and 7am wake ups for work. This works double time as it familiarizes you with how this album is going to sound, but also gets you the underlying themes as early as 30 seconds into the album, a master class in storytelling right from the get go.

The first song proper is “Me and the Snowman”, an homage to a reoccurring character in Logan Whitehurst lore: Vanilla the Plastic Snowman, a prop that appeared during many Whitehurst performances and wrote nonsense on a blog. Aside from literally being about a snowman that he owned, the song functions also as theme for imaginary friends, the youthful phenomenon of creating a friend out of an object or nothing at all to confide your true feelings into. The song follows much of the popular geek rock formula, focusing on scholarly efforts like correct grammar in “…snowman and me, or is it me and the snowman?”, and referencing countless pop culture pairings that rival the friendship of himself and the snowman. Even listening to the music without the background info of a literal plastic snowman in Whitehurst’s garage, this song can speak to those who once had the comfort of secret friend that could know their deepest thoughts. Mine were usually stuffed animals.

This leads into “The Volcano Song”, a staple in the geek rock sound all about how volcanoes work. This fits directly into the type of science learning that elementary school students do about nature, focusing on the cool, almost magical elements of learning how the world around us works. The song gets really into the details of how these fiery mountains work behind the scenes, to the degree where this song could genuinely pass off as one of those hip video learning opportunities a science teacher would turn on to much enjoyment from their students. Also, there is not a moment in time I am not as risk of spontaneously bursting into “huh, you’re a volcano!”

“Aron” follows the story line of the titular character being saved by Logan, the only payment for said service being endless and unconditional praise. I’m sure we have all interacted with someone who desires more than they let on, and “Aron” is another for the books, brought by Whitehurst’s classic 4-track loops.

“I Love The Ocean” is hands down my favorite song on the album. With Oasis-esque fuzzy guitar intro and multi-layered, multi-Whitehursted vocal harmonies, this is the most complete “song” in a sense on the album, where this could pass off as a 90s Britpop War tune from a band under the big hitters.

Until you get to the lyrics, which are all about why the ocean is awesome! It has fish, and the fish disperse their knowledge to all who seek it. Between listing all of the fish you can find in the ocean and belting out the harmonious bridge, there is not a moment that does not bring me joy on “I Love The Ocean”. This captures all of the charms of what makes Logan Whitehurst’s music great to me.

“Your Brain Fell Out” could be considered the most successful Logan Whitehurst song, as it consistently tops his streaming numbers (as of writing this), and it makes sense as one of the more tasteful and plain cuts on this album. The 4-track loops are pretty professional and the lyrics are near an homage to “Where Is My Mind?” from underground rock’s favorite child Pixies. This song is the least likely on this album to get you kicked off of the aux on a car ride, and I think there is some merit to that as a safer introduction to an artist who’s writing can sometimes be alienating to people less familiar with his silly, often nonsensical songs.

A popular theme in Logan Whitehurst’s albums is reoccurring bits through albums, and the first of which on this album is “The Robot Cat”, first appearing on The Mini-Album of Luv early that year in 2003. The song is incredibly similar to its original incarnation on that EP with a fresh coat of Goodbye, My 4-Track polish. Of all songs that appear on multiple albums, this one is the most similar to its original counterpart, but does the robot cat need to be fixed if it isn’t broken?

In terms of the actual song, Logan gets a mail order robot cat from Japan that he wishes to use to take over the world. Sonically this is a huge homage to the original wave of hip-hop music from the 80s and 90s, with a similar cadence to the classics and a hidden Snoop Dogg reference for the 3 people who’ve heard both artists. The build up from casual chores to world domination is comedically fulfilling, and I quite enjoy rapping all of the letters that can be found in the words robot cat. Cheers to our robot cat overlords, I for one welcome the change in leadership.

Track 8 is “Happy Noodle vs. Sad Noodle”, a form of which first appeared on Whitehurst’s sophomore album “I Would Be a Biggest Octopus” and the later third album “Electrostatic Motor”. The production is far tighter than the original iteration, the backing vocals are far more finished, and the more theatrical delivery in the verses better illustrates the timeless battle between our characters Happy Noodle and Sad Noodle.

Happy Noodle lives a great life and passes on his joy to others around him, while Sad Noodle lives and unfortunate and miserable experience punctuated only by the joy of his rival. Sad Noodle gets the double whammy of not only losing this battle to his rival, but has to also deal with Happy Noodle’s endless positivity about it afterwards. The positive vs. negative dynamic is timeless, and the small details really make the difference in this story device, such as Happy Noodle saying “if it will make you happy” and Sad Noodle cringing in response. These little details in throwaway lines put this album above many others, with attention given to each and every small detail of the universes contained in each song. It is easy to get lost in the battle, and that is what great storytellers can do.

“The Ice Cream Man” is a brief cut from the first side of the album where our main character’s internal monologue takes over and kills all of the food vendors he is buying from. The almost lullaby style verses contradict the sharp inner thoughts cutting in to introduce the idea of murder, and this dichotomy matches with how the fluttering keys contrast the sharp, almost mechanical percussion loop behind it after the first verse. They’ll never catch me!

“How Ya Doing, Emily?” seems innocuous at first, but more research leads this to being the most based in reality song present on 4-Track. Emily is the name of Logan’s sister, who was also the lead singer of the staple Warped Tour band Tsunami Bomb. This song is a letter to his sister, all about how she “makes the world a better place,” which is far more friendly a relationship than most siblings have. It makes sense though, as both have a similar passion of music, albeit very different genre preferences. The song features tight loops from the 4-track and a very fun ‘yeahs’ section in the chorus, which is always a welcome addition to a song.

Side A ends on “A Word From Farkle”, a modified and extended cut of a track on Whitehurst’s first album “Outsmartin’ The Popos”, further added to on “Electrostatic Motor” and 2000’s “Earth Is Big” before appearing on 4-Track. Parodying an infomercial, the titular Farkle is a nigh-incomprehensible object that can do seemingly everything and anything, to the point where it is frankly hard to tell what a Farkle even is. It features numerous testimonials about the product from fellow musicians, and a guest appearance from Jon Jon the Leprechaun, a pitched-up testimonial all about why you (should?) purchase Farkle. It has funny bits on it, but outside of the context of the album, there’s no real reason to seek this one out, since it barely features any actual music outside of a backing Yamaha loop.

The second half of “Farkle’s” runtime is dedicated to reminding the listener to turn the disc over to Side B, an homage to the vinyl records of days gone by, before the current revival of vinyl we are in today. I own this album on a CD however, so there was no turning anything over on my part (yippee!).

Side B opens with “Please & Thank You”, with a solid beat and good keywork where the only lyrics are please and thank you, in a style similar to the vocoding available at the time. There really isn’t much more to add to this song, it is the most important lesson any listener need take away from this album, please and thank you are just common decency!

“Do The Confusion” runs very akin to the smash hit from Beck “Loser”, with gibberish verses all about how sloppy life can be sometimes. Logan proposes however, instead of coping with life’s challenges, you can “do the confusion ‘til your head falls off”, which sometimes does feel like a meaningful alternative to something like, figuring out my taxes. The beat on this track is a flip of a walking sound effect from an ‘old film’ ala MF DOOM, which shows the sheer creativity Whitehurst had forming the loops and flips for this project.

“Welcome Back, Mr. Pants” tells the story of cult icon Mr. Pants, powered by the iconic Fred voice also seen in OK Computer’s Fitter Happier. Mr. Pants travels the world, gives advice, and eats cookies while his worshippers wait on his next command. Let us all take his advice, and not eat ourselves up like a cookie, because it sucks.

This is also the first album appearance of Baby Logan, a recording of Logan Whitehurst as a child who appears on a few albums prior, most prominently on Biggest Octopus. He talks with Mr. Pants, introducing us to the next song on the album, a song about a lizard, and a fish.

“Lizard & Fish” first appears on “Electrostatic Motor” with a live rendition featured on the Dentures/Doorknobs EP, following the tale of a lizard and fish who hope to escape the pet store and live as free animals. The piano backing is all performed by Whitehurst, and every instance of Fish talking is done by Whitehurst gargling water behind the keys. They are saved by Peewee Herman, who’s assistance helps them become what they’ve always wanted. The comedic timing on this song is some of the best on this album, and the escape is a fitting to the saga of lizard and fish set up so many years prior.

The tropical “I Want to Live on the Moon” is another very brief cut on this album about how Whitehurst, wants to live on the Moon. Very simple concept, packed with Star Trek and Robot Cat references, and hereby dubbing the moon Loganland. He will do donuts and prove all of the ‘scientifics’ wrong about how the moon actually works. The happy glockenspiel parts contradict the moon aesthetic harshly, which is one of the main drivers of comedy from this tune.

“When Werewolves Collide” draws even more from sci-fi/fantasy as the Halloween themed song on Side B, with samples from old spooky movies, accordion, and some fun organ setting on the keyboard. One of the less overtly funny songs on the album, this veers more into geek rock tradition being more interested in science and monsters, the nerdier aspects of the canon. That isn’t to say this doesn’t fit on the album, as even with the tonal whiplash of silly keys into accordion is sharp, it surprisingly meshes well together.

“Steve” is probably the most sample-heavy song up to this point in the album, which numerous sound board effects that sound right out of Mario Paint’s sound editor. It follows the one sided love affair of Steve, who’s handwriting was so bad on a Valentine’s Day card, the recipient could not even decipher that it just said “my name is Steve.” An extremely funny premise, cut down into a song under 2 minutes total. This bit could have easily been extended on a future Junior Science Club album in another universe.

“At The Wig Store” brings back the accordion and the most infectious backup vocals on the album, chronicling the tales of the wig store. You can check out the displays full of faceless heads, find out which people in town don’t have hair, or work the counter! Never in my life have I wanted to work at a wig store until now, but now I really need to know what the bell on the counter is for! Argh! The MIDI trumpets also work wonders here, it sounds just cheesy enough to pass as a theme song for a random wig store.

“Prosthetic Brain” is the last full recurring song from previous Junior Science Club material, once again pulling from “Electrostatic Motor” (all this from Motor and he didn’t include I Like Pez? A shame, really). The rerecording features much improved vocal performances and instrumentation that better aligns it with the soundscapes featured in 4-Track, heavy on the Yamaha sampler and glockenspiel. The song is all about making “fine analogies” for things, not great ones, but they are fine. Often non-descript and very poorly designed to what they are actually about, it makes for a good geek rock premise, not unlike Istanbul from They Might Be Giants (surprised I dodged mentioning the geek rock band until now). The added touches of polish really put it above and beyond what the original was able to accomplish.

The album’s closer is a double header between the title track “Goodbye, My 4-Track” and a final homage to “Electrostatic Motor” with a brand new rendition of “Monkeys Are Bad People”, functioning as a pseudo-hidden track closing for the album. The “Monkeys” portion of the song is very strong, a piano-driven number about how monkeys are bent on doing nothing but evil and association with them is guilt, but the real standout is the title track, and it ties together the album, his discography, and really, what I am writing about today.

It is largely acoustic guitar and harmonica, all about tying up all of the loose ends of the album. No more time for silly songs, it is time to go on with our lives.

This really is in essence what I hoped to share with all of you today. It feels like adult life is telling me to put away all of the silly synths and songs about robots and come join the adult world, when just like Logan, all I want to do is “sit around all day”. But just as he says, that doesn’t pay the bills, so we have to bid our 4-track goodbye.

Unfortunately, this song hits twice as hard, knowing that this is the last full song Logan Whitehurst recorded before passing away from complications from brain cancer in 2006. Before his passing, he recorded many small snippets for compilation style albums, but nothing ever to the scale of a full LP. His lasting legacy was saying goodbye to his 4-Track.

In a liner note on the 2018, Dr. Demento, long time collaborator and friend of Whitehurst’s said it best: “Of all of Logan’s work, Goodbye My 4-Track comes the closest to wrapping up his multitude of gifts into a single package.”

This album speaks to everything Whitehurst loved, from creating music, writing, designing graphics, and speaking to the everlasting youth he and I hope to have. It is a touching piece of music that has brought me laughs, made me reflect, and brought my keys to this page.

I am getting older, that is for certain, but I will always be young when I’ve got 4-Track.

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