Posts Tagged ‘apocalypse’

The Suburbs: ‘Month of May’

Man, when was the last time you heard a real rock-and-roll song that started with such a solid and sincere, “1, 2, 3, 4!”? It’s funny, while I’ve heard so many of Arcade Fire’s songs described as ‘anthemic’, not too many of them are real fist-in-the-air singalongs. Month of May, however, is definitely one:

Gonna make a record in the month of May
When the violent wind blows the wires away

This isn’t the first time on this album that we’ve heard about a wind blowing things around; the first time this thread was touched upon was in Rococo, which seems to serve as a companion piece to this song. However, while last time the wind was simply blowing around ashes, this time the wind is explicitly violent. Which begs the question: What is the violent wind? Is it a primitivist social movement, tearing down our culture’s machinery of enslavement (wires, &c.) like a force of nature? Is it a blast of radiation from a nuclear mushroom cloud (the EMP produced by high-altitude detonations could fry electronics and effectively “blow the wires away”)? Is it a massive solar flare, playing havoc with our unshielded power grid? Hmm…

Month of May, it’s a violent thing
In the city their hearts start to sing
Well, some people singing sounds like screaming
Used to doubt it but now I believe it

I believe the band has spoken in interviews how May is the time when Winter finally ends in Montreal, and everybody is full of an almost-violent energy with the promise of Spring. I’ve spent some time in Montreal, and it’s definitely the kind of place that would make my heart start to sing.
However, singing that “sounds like screaming” doesn’t sound too pretty. Is this the same as the “horrible song” being sung in Rococo? Butler has explained in interview that these songs were inspired by the Baroque period, and the notion that a beautiful piece of art could become “hideous and grotesque” by ‘turning it up to eleven’; the same could be said of the modern music industry, that it’s possible to take something decent and beautiful “and overdo it” into a rococo mockery of itself.

Month of May, everybody’s in love
then the city was hit from above
And just when I knew what I wanted to say
The violent wind blew the wires away

Traditional associations with May as ‘the lusty month’—all those young people’s springtime hormones—juxtaposed with violence. Once again, Butler’s songwriting exhibits a subversive undercurrent dealing with the destruction of our modern built environments.  I wonder if the city destroyed in this song is the same as the San Francisco of Half Light II?

We were shocked in the suburbs
Now the kids are all standing with their arms folded tight
Now, some things are pure and some things are right
But the kids are still standing with their arms folded tight
So young, so young, so much pain for someone so young,
Well, I know it’s heavy, I know it ain’t light
But how you gonna lift it with your arms folded tight?

Why were they shocked in the suburbs? As hinted at previously, is it because the ’burbs are designed to artificially insulate their inhabitants from the blows of Life? A city being “hit from above” is the kind of event that seems impossible (until it happens) to middleclass suburbanites. The rest of the verse is—like much of Rococo—another jab at that “certain breed of pseudorebellious youth”, the cynical hipster-types who are too-cool-for-school to uncross their arms to just get up and DANCE!

First the built they road, then they built the town
That’s why we’re still driving around and around and around…
(At least once at this point, Win has observed, “I don’t know where we are, but I know that something ain’t right”)

LLipton-Round&RoundAs brilliantly illustrated by pencil artist Laurie Lipton, it’s hard to break out of this vicious cycle of consumption, disconnection, and environmental destruction when the whole System is designed and built to encourage and reward those very evils.

2009, 2010—wanna make a record how I felt then
When we stood outside in the month of May
And watched a violent wind blow the wires away

Another reference to recent history (see Half Light II’s crashing markets) as Butler seems to break the fourth wall. So now we’re in the realm not of future dystopia but something that actually happened?

If I die in the month of May, let the wind take my body away,
I wish I may, I wish I might
Don’t leave me down there with my arms folded tight?
Start again in the month of May
Come on and blow the wires away

There are several songs on this album that speak of finally being able to start or begin, or starting again—this time, with fried wires. The destruction of the powergrid (or whatever) in the Springing of the year has given us an opportunity for a fresh start when we might connect with ourselves and the world—perhaps this time we will build the towns—if we build them at all—before we build the roads.

The Sububs: ‘Half Light II’

…an ominous, pulsating undercurrent, quickly joined by an equally-ominous thumping bass drum. All at once, this is overtaken by a mix of harmonica(?), synth strings, and drum machine beat—introducing what one reviewer astutely called “a new doom-laden hint of electronica”. The vocals of the verse stanzas are backed only by the drum machine and synth/bass; in between the verses, however, we get the full arsenal of the intro.

Now that San Francisco’s gone, I guess I’ll just pack it in
Wanna wash away my sins in the presence of my friends

Right off the bat, we are presented with what would seem to be yet another example of city-destruction. It makes one wonder, where did San Francisco go? Was it blown up? Was it “hit from above” by the violent wind of Rococo and Month of May? As for the rest of this verse, some have interpreted it to refer to a kind of survivor’s guilt on the part of the singer, wishing he had been with his friends in the city when it was destroyed.

You and I we head back East to find a town where we can live
Even in the half light, we can see that something’s gotta give

It is in compositions like this when the line begins to blur between the narrative of the singer and the narrative of the actual band. This stanza in particular brings to mind the biography of Arcade Fire found on their first album Funeral (“Members fled from Texas and Ontario at a young a and joined with local youth making their home in Montréal, Quebec, Canada.”); additionally, this verse seems to reference the Suburbs song Wasted Hours (subtitled A Life That We Can Live), which will deal with similar issues of seeking a connection to one’s own place.
Here we also have the sole use of the song’s title. Although from this line it might seem that the half light is now (instead of fallout in the future, as in the first part of this movement), because Butler’s lyrics have that nasty habit of jumping around in tense, I can’t know for sure. If that is the case, then perhaps we can say the Half Light in this song is the present kind of twilit, Long Emergency-type of slow decline of the world we know? Our characters are smart enough to look around and see that the way our culture functions can’t last (i.e. “[has] gotta give”), and so they are going East in search of a way to live that works.

When we watched the markets crash, the promises we made were torn
Then my parents sent for me from out West where I was born

Here we have a succinct reference to recent history (others feature in Antichrist Television Blues, Windowsill, Month of May, and Deep Blue, and probably in others) to ground us in the present, and yet another borrowed phrase from a previous work: parents also send for the kids in The Woodlands National Anthem—a song that, like the Half Light movement, deals with most of the band’s big ideas.

Some people say we’ve already lost,
but they’re afraid to pay the cost for what we’ve lost

It’s interesting to note that this is the first and only mention of fear on The Suburbs. This lyric is so convoluted the way it loops back on itself that it’s quite powerful to hear but I am completely unable to articulate what is meant by it.

Now that you have left me here, I will never raise my voice
All the diamonds you have hid in this home which has no life

A truly uninterpretable verse. Some have suggested that the singer’s old home was destroyed while he was away; hard to say. Let’s assume that the song conveys a definite story. It would seem that our characters (proxy Win and Regine, or proxy Butler Brothers?) were off in the East, searching for a life of their own (in the direction of proxy Montreal?). But then the markets crash, and their parents call them back to the West (proxy Texas or San Francisco?). Something happens to the Bay City; everybody dies? The characters still make the journey to their birthplace, though it is desolate and empty, and find their old home. While the Half Light has “torn them free” (see the first part of this movement), their freedom is mixed with tragedy, their friends and possibly parents are among the casualties (remember that this song is subtitled No Celebration).

Oh, this city’s changed so much since I was a little child
Pray to God I won’t live to see the death of everything that’s wild

This verse may be one of the most indicative of Arcade Fire’s grand theme. Here we see the recurring motif of rearranging streets (things are not made to last in the ’burbs, nor—to take the big-picture view—in our postpostmodern industrial culture), while Butler roots himself firmly on the side of the uncivilized with a whoop.
Furthermore, I’m unsure if this verse is being sung by the song’s narrator, or by Win himself in the present. While it’s possible to assume that the city referred to may be the devastated San Francisco (though Win wasn’t born in SF, it is the closest city to his birthplace of Truckee, CA), I would expect him to have more connection to a childhood home instead of a birthplace.

Though we knew this day would come, still it took us by surprise
In this town where I was born I now see through a dead man’s eyes

One wonders what day this verse refers to; in the framework of the band’s overarching themes (especially Neon Bible)—though it almost seems too easy—one can assume that “this day” is one of long-expected-but-sudden collapse or destruction. No matter how one prepares for such eventualities, you can never be sure when it will actually occur.
Musically-speaking, the dropping-out of the supporting instruments in this verse—and their sudden return for the following final refrain—only adds immensely to the weight of the words.

One day they will see it’s long gone…

Like Half Light I, the second half closes with an anthemic refrain, this particular chorus seems like a reiteration of the “It’s already passed” motif from The Suburbs.

The Suburbs: ‘City With No Children’

Thankfully, Empty Room fades out into hand-claps and an ever-so-catchy guitar riff that heralds the opening of the rollicking City With No Children.

The summer that I broke my arm I waited for your letter
I have no feeling for you now, now that I know you better

While I can’t say for sure that it’s an intentional connection, Butler only refers to Summer twice on this album, each in a context of passing time. Together, he paints a complete vignette of a young man who breaks his arm, and spends the season staring out the window, waiting for snail-mail correspondence.

I wish that I could have loved you then, before our age was through
And before a world war does with us whatever it will do

This verse seems to refer back to the Neon Bible closing track My Body is a Cage, in which our singer bemoans that he is “…living in an age whose name I don’t know”. Well, in this song, that age has ostensibly ended; in interviews Butler has referred to “the current information age”, but is that what he’s referencing here? Given the band’s apparent socio-political slant, if we’re talking about an age whose name no one seems to be able to agree on, I’d like to submit the Holocene or Anthropocene for consideration, although Derrick Jensen’s Age of the Sociopath is more accurate.
And once again, there’s mention of a world war looming on the horizon (compare to Neon Bible’s Windowsill: “World War Three, when are you coming for me?”).

Dreamed I drove home to Houston on a highway that was underground
There was no light that we could see as we listened to the sound of the engine failing

Aside from references to one’s home, and driving—possibly as a result of being called back West by one’s parents (Half Light II)—I’m not sure if this vignette is meant to mesh into the larger mosaic of this album, or if it’s just a testament to Butler’s great skill at composing tight verses. If you really want to get analytic and force a match with the album’s themes, that second line could be interpreted as “we had no hope while we watched the machinery that drives our system begin to break down and collapse”.

I feel like I’ve been living in a city with no children in it
A garden left for ruin by a billionaire inside of a private prison

Butler has explained how he was inspired to write this song when he received a picture “of an old school friend… standing with his daughter sitting on his shoulders “at the mall around the corner from where we lived”. He adds: “The combination of seeing this familiar place and seeing my friend with his child brought back a lot of feeling from that time. I found myself trying to remember the town that we grew up in and trying to retrace as much as I could remember.”
This also reminds us of the request for a child heard in The Suburbs; one can almost hear the singer’s biological clock ticking against a countdown to destruction. (As a cross-media connection, the only child-free city I can think of is London, circa 2027).

You never trust a millionaire quoting the sermon on the mount
I used to think I was not like them but I’m beginning to have my doubts about it

A Neon Bible-esque religious reference paired with a veiled fear of becoming a ‘sellout’; perhaps Win seems to be afraid that as he and the band become more well-known, the messages they spread in their songs might sound hollow and hypocritical. However, the very-down-to-earth Butler brothers have reassuringly tackled this topic in interviews:

Will: Maybe at some point we’ll get to the level where we have to really deal with the devil or decide to stay small, but so far we’ve been pretty much able to do what we want to do.
Win: I think you also have to want to be really famous. It’s a lot easier to sabotage your career than to have a career to sabotage [laughs].

When you’re hiding underground, the rain can’t get you wet
But do you think your righteousness could pay
The interest on your debt? I have my doubts about it

I’m really not sure what this verse refers to, but this isn’t the first time the band has sung about debt, although the last two occurrences (“I know no matter what you say/There are some debts you’ll never pay (Intervention); I don’t want to live with my father’s debt/You can’t forgive what you can’t forget” (Windowsill)) came from Neon Bible.

‘The Suburbs’: Context & Composition

The Suburbs is (the) Arcade Fire’s third full-length album, and it continues to build on the themes of their EP and previous albums, especially 2007’s Neon Bible—so much so that it really seems a bit like a sequel or side-quel to that record.
In fact, the idea of successive sidequels continuing to explore deeper facets of an original’s theme reminds me of the life’s work of another Houstonite, Daniel Quinn, whose writings could (from a certain point of view) be interpreted to deal with the same issues as Arcade Fire (such as calls for change in how we relate to our communities; escape from the world in its present form; and imminent environmental destruction). I wonder if the Brothers Butler have read any Quinn?

But where Neon Bible seemed to focus on a cultural and environmental collapse/apocalypse brought on by the potent overlap of politics, overconsumption, religion, and television (which is to say, it’s an album about Right Now), The Suburbs dials down the doom to zoom in a bit.
While it’s entirely possible that both albums occupy the same universe, this time around, the story—while set against a backdrop of suburban war—is more intimate, focusing on a Millennial generation of nostalgic, dissatisfied Young People—alienated by technology and the sterile uniformity of their modern surroundings—yearning for a rewarding way of life outside the Sprawl.
Hopefully I haven’t scared anyone off with that serious description, but it’s just as deathly topical as its predecessor.

To provide comparisons as we start our examination of this album, I’m going to be relating examples from my previous favorite concept album (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness), partially because they’re surprisingly similar in presentation, and partially because I’ve invested so much time studying that double-LP monster over the years it would seem like a waste if I didn’t.

So, for starters, both albums begin with an atypical-sounding first track or two. I have to wonder what the first ’Pumpkins fans to hear MCIS in 1995—expecting something similar to the swirling guitar layers of Siamese Dream—thought upon hearing the piano/synth and orchestral strings of those first two tracks (the ’Pumpkins’ signature sound would return in spades by MCIS’s third track); similarly, the splash of cymbals and the deceptively cheerful piano line that opens The Suburbs might’ve surprised Arcade Fire fans, although I suspect they’re smart enough to understand the band’s penchant for making songs in a wide variety of styles.

Since we’re talking about arrangement, I feel I should—even though I promise I’ll discuss it later as part of this series—draw attention to Scenes from The Suburbs at this point, specifically how Spike Jonze rearranges the album’s tracks to great effect to open his film.
As exciting an opening as those splashy cymbals on The Suburbs are, they sound way better when preceded by sorrowful narration and the melancholy strings of an extended version of The Suburbs Continued (the album’s coda track).
Hey kids!, just for fun, next time you listen to the album, try playing that reprise as the first track. Pretty cool, huh?
So, compositionally-speaking, this opening title track functions as an overture or prologue, containing concentrated versions of the album’s themes. The next song will open the programme proper (MCIS’s first ‘scene’, jellybelly, begins with the words, “Welcome to nowhere fast”; while after its prologue, The Suburbs launches with Ready to Start, a song that would be a perfect album-opener by nature of its musical composition, title, and lyrics).
The songs that follow will explore the themes first broached in the prologue, reaching an emotional climax about halfway through the album (Muzzle for MCIS; Suburban War for The ‘burbs), and ending the album with a Reprise of the main theme, which acts as ‘end titles’ for the listening experience.

Said title track (or in the case of MCIS, the second track, since the title track is instrumental) contains concentrated versions of most of the key themes examined in the course of the album (and in a larger sense, in all of Arcade Fire’s works). While there is some significant overlap for several of them (due to exploration of dichotomies, for instance—all coins having two sides, to be able to discuss something like the Wild without being aware at least on some level of its opposite would be an impressive feat of Orwellian thought), in their distilled forms the album’s themes may be classified thusly (in no particular order):

  • children/childhood/youth/adolescence
  • nostalgia for said carefree times ^ (the “wasted hours”)
  • Millennial Young People of today (“the Kids”)
  • music/singing/screaming
  • modernity/recent history
  • Place: Cities/Downtown/the Sprawl/Towns/the Suburbs/Home
  • one’s connection to said locales^, (especially issues that arise when said locales^ change)
  • roads and driving (inherent in our relationship to said modern locales^)
  • Destruction (either in the form of War, or another nonspecific source, and often of said locales^)
  • Technology (and its effect on the speed of life), and waiting (as metaphor for a slower-paced life)
  • alienation (often as a result of said technology)
  • authority figures with ‘power’ (emperors, kings, soldiers, police, &c.)
  • tribalism
  • insomnia/sleeping/dreaming
  • Escape
  • the “Wild” (often represented by “the Night”, used as a catch-all term for the natural/organic/uncivilized)

In fact, if someone asked me to further hyper-refine The Suburbs in 25 words, I’d say it is about ‘the dichotomy between Civilization/The Wild (and all that go along with both), explored from the vantage point of Young People in the early 21st century.’
But of course, that’s coming from someone with an anthropology/anarcho-primitivist background. Hell, as Win sings on Culture War, “You see what you want to see.”

Pretty heavy stuff, huh?

Why I Do What I Do.

We interrupt our regularly-scheduled programming…
While I normally reserve my non-television-related posts for the off-season, I have to share this while it’s still hot off the presses.

A great bit of weekend reading is just out from Robert Jensen, taken from his recent print publication and entitled “Rationally Speaking, We Are All Apocalyptic Now“. It’s a tight, less-than-1,000-word essay, and it’s absolutely spot-on.

‘What oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed’, indeed.
This is the reason why I continually espouse the genius of Max Brooks’ WWZ. This is why The Matrix is one of the most unappreciated blockbusters ever. This is why I just wrapped up a 12,000-word project on Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs (and I’m just getting started). This is why I read Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings is apocalyptic to its core: epic Life-affirming adventuring against Industry threatening to bring about the End of the World). This is why I have a very hard time listening to most music, watching most TV, or reading most fiction—I don’t like to turn off my brain; I like to think, and I like to think about these kinds of things ^ because they’re important.

Doomsday Preppers: Amanda & Scott Bobbin

The last segment of ‘Prepper’s Paradise’ looks at Amanda & Scott Bobbin, living in Waynesville, North Carolina, and I have very little to say about them.
Originally from Florida, they pulled up stakes and moved to the mountains because Greta the ghost told them to get out…because a comet is coming! That’s right, Amanda Bobbin is The SpOoOoOoky Prepper.
So, they move to NC and find a sweet deal on a house called ‘Paragon Jewel’, which I’m already suspicious about, because houses with names—especially New Age-y ones—are weird. Honestly, I get a real The Shining vibe from the whole thing, and I’m sure that’s what they were going for.paragonjewelFor what it’s worth, this Paragon Jewel is not the same as the completely-different-looking property up for auction 150 miles away in Bluefield, West Virginia. Seriously, they look nothing alike.

The house is supposedly 8,500 square feet, with 51 rooms, which is a lot for just two people. It seems Greta the Ghost also stipulated that they should extend an invitation to fellow would-be survivors, and make the house a bastion of security in the post-comet-impact world. Or something. And how do they get these messages from Greta the Ghost? Amanda ‘channels’ them. Ohboy. Did I mention that the house’s previous owner was also named Greta? Whoooooaaaaa! It turns out that she was in it for the long haul, because they keep finding survival goods stashed all over the place (they open up a shed and find what looks like several tons of grains and other foods, all sealed up in buckets).

They invite some neighbors over, who are nice enough to bring Scott the coolest housewarming gift ever—a twelve gauge pump shotgun! Apparently he’s never shot one before?, so there’s some nervous-making stuff while he’s getting familiar with the action. Like Brent’s son from a few weeks ago, if you’ve never touched a gun before (videogames don’t count), please ask someone to help you out first.

Oh, and while they’re filming, the couple’s two sons come over for a visit from Ireland. So yeah, if you’re into crystals and ghosts and British accents (and there’s a definite type of person who goes for those things), you’d probably really enjoy this segment.
Eventually the parents explain how they’ve ‘become preppers’, which just makes for a bunch of reality-show drama. Johnny, the younger one, seems to think preparation isn’t bad—“what if there’s a storm or something?”—while Chris wants nothing to do with it. You can explain all you want, how it’s the smart thing to do, but good luck trying to reason with a sixteen year old.

The experts tell them to get security cameras, alarms, and defensive training. They get 65 points, for ten months’ initial survival.

Doomsday Preppers: Lucas Camerons & Kevin O’Brien

The season continues with the episode ‘In the Hurt Locker’ (a title which actually comes from a line in the episode about having no money). We start off in the Bible Belt with a look at Lucas Cameron and his group of ‘Seven Trumpet Preppers’. As our narrator tells us, Lucas, his wife, son, and parents are all “God-Fearing Christians”.
7Trumpet PreppersA few weeks ago I was explaining Doomsday Preppers to a friend, and he asked me what kind of ‘doomsday’ the folks were prepared for.
“Oh, you know,” I said, “pretty much everyone says financial collapse, with the odd earthquake or volcano thrown in.”
“What?!” he stammered, “Those aren’t doomsdays! An asteroid is doomsday!” His point being, there’s a difference between something being the end of your world, and the End of The World.
Well, on this episode, we have the first group preparing for that latter category, stemming from their particular book of faith: Lucas and the rest of the Seven Trumpets fear a “global earthquake described in Revelation”. They somehow think this will relate to the big, bad wolf of the Eastern US, the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Which…isn’t global…but whatever. Maybe they think that’ll be the first Trumpet, and the rest will follow.

Once again, like everyone else, their real fear is that in the days after a quake, “people will turn to lawlessness”. Well, probably, but let’s first recognize that—just as there is no one right way to live—there are more ways of keeping order in a society than relying on arbitrary “Don’t do _x_!” laws decided on by elite old men, which are fully expected to be broken. Given a big enough disaster, a long enough timeline, and the absence of a dominating militarized government, it’s conceivable that we might actually see a return of an organically-evolved system of tribal law. Of course, we’re dealing with a guy who wears a miniature set of Ten Commandments (the world’s most famous set of anti-tribal laws) around his neck, so I don’t really expect them to understand.

Anyway, to deal with the likelihood of lawless, hungry folks hemorrhaging from cities, the Cameron clan has spent a comparatively-meager $50,000 fortifying their farm and home; like Tom Perez, they call their fortress home The Alamo.
And to help with the defense and upkeep of the place, Lucas has recruited prepper friends with a very telling variety of skillsets. These include a soldier/‘private military contractor’-type, a guy who works night shift security, and Lucas’s father, a lifelong farmer of row crops and beef cattle. Additionally, Lucas and his buddy Spence work together to fabricate machines including a wind turbine and another one of those ‘wood gassifiers’ things (I have yet to really understand how they work) they use to power a generator. And what is this wood-burning fuel-maker made from? An old oil drum and some jumbo ammo cans! Well, that gets a thumbs-up for DIY solutions! However, when it comes to farming, I have to raise this point: like Lucas’s pa, my dad and uncle have been growing maize, soya, and beef cattle for decades. But do I think they could do it without modern synthetic fertilizers and antibiotics and inoculants? No way! If you want to be really able to survive an uncertain future, make friends with someone who has a big, productive organic garden. Y’know, a horticulturalist, instead of a totalitarian agriculturalist.
So to recap, the way the Trumpets see it, one’s essential concerns should be defense (warfare), herding, and maintaining power. For those who say our culture has continued to evolve, let me point out that those three essentials are calling cards of the patriarchal, warlike, sky-god-worshipping Indo-Europeans who rode into history to dominate Europe about the time I’m guessing the Seven Trumpets believe the Earth was created.

Anyway, where were we? Food? Speaking of food, about the only time we see the ladies is when they’re showing off a bit of their massive food stockpile, including a lot of rice in two-liter soda bottles. For dry goods, I think those are hard to beat: bugs can’t get in (I guess mice might be able to chew through), they don’t shatter when dropped, and they stack up pretty neat; win-win-win. Apparently, they also have multiple food caches spread around the farm, which is always a good idea—Nature doesn’t put all her eggs in one basket, and we shouldn’t either.
We also hear that the family has a fair amount of food on-the-hoof: five goats, a score of chickens, and two-score cattle. That’s not bad, but again, can they keep them fed through a winter without relying on maize? And furthermore, would they really want to?—remember that ruminants like cattle evolved as grazers, not grain-eaters; grass-fed beef is way better.

Like most long-term thinking folks, the Seven Trumpets plan on reloading a lot of ammo when things head south. We get to see grandpa (who owns a firearms business) and Lucas teach his son how to reload shotshells, which they use as an opportunity to quiz him on his gun-ethics.
“What are guns for?” “Killing people trying to kill you.”
“That’s right,” says grandpa. “Guns are just weapons, like a carpenter’s saw.” Wait, what?

Always interested in swelling the ranks of the ’Trumpets, Lucas has been in contact with a new arrival to the area, who just happens to be a familiar face from season one…Kevin O’Brien! This means we get to see an update on his ultimate prepper homestead, right? Unfortunately, no. While the O’Briens bought 130 acres of lovely countryside, they still have no home, so they rent a house nearby and take frequent camping trips to get familiarized with the land. There’s a bit where the kids make it abundantly clear they have no intention of ever living without indoor plumbing, haha.
So, to try out for the ’Trumpets, the O’Briens head over to the Cameron compound and do some target shooting with that crew. They seem pretty pleased with his performance, but have a more rigorous test in mind for him, one for which they’ve called in the big guns, literally. Because who shows up next but the ‘experts’ themselves, Practical Preppers! Hot damn, this is turning out to be an all-star episode!
Kobler and Hunt roll up with black guns, night-vision, and more tactical crap than I’ve ever seen before, to play to role of ‘raiders’ that O’Brien and the Seven Trumpets will hopefully detect and defend against. Which begs the question—exactly what kind of raiders do these guys expect to deal with? Are they planning on facing hungry hordes of unprepared city-folk, or the local band of Navy SEALs?  Seriously; boys and their toys, *eyeroll*.

Luckily (unlike some of the other invasion drills we’ve seen), at least these guys’ guns are loaded with blanks (Kevin is armed with a spotlight in hopes of blinding the night-vision). Anyway, the experts manage to sneak up right under the others’ noses, and during the shooting, Lucas’s AR jams! Haha! I think I’ll stick with my EastBloc dunk-‘em-in-mud rifles, thank you very much. Despite all this, I guess everybody considers it a successful learning experience, and Lucas offers to bring Kevin into his group.

In the experts’ assessment,
O’Brien gets 62 points—keeping chickens (his daughter names her chick Nugget. Right-on, that’s the way to do it!) gets him extra kudos for food resupply—for 9 months’ survival.
Lucas—who the experts say needs to buy some two-way radios—gets 74 points for 14 months.

In their update, the O’Briens have moved to a new location with a stocked fish pond, wood-burning stove, a bigger chicken coop, and lots of stonework, which looks really good in the woods. Thumbs-up for architectural camouflage. Meanwhile, Lucas reports that they’ve taken the experts advice and bought walkie-talkies, as well as installed a hand pump for their well. Yay for the best kind of sustainable energy, people power!