Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Column #27: An old-school road trip, one tune at a time

When I was younger, I was not always happy. I found some solace for my suburban frustrations in loud, aggressive music – punk, avant-garde noise and, mostly, heavy metal. I was an angry teen boy in central Florida at a, well, happy time for fans of heavy music. Napalm Death bleated, “You suffer!” and I nodded in agreement as I set the dinner table, miserable in the knowledge that I still needed to finish my homework.

In hindsight, I probably would have spent my time more wisely becoming a Goth. As some of my suffering came from a lackluster social life, posing as a Goth would have put me in closer proximity to girls. Sure, most lacked the looks and charm of the late ‘80’s Winona Ryder model, but it would have been good practice.

As I matured, I began to realize that most civilized young ladies don’t necessarily respond well to Slayer, Overkill or Carcass. (Their loss). I learned that while most well-bred gals don’t always need to be wooed with Nat ‘King’ Cole, the latter was always better than a romantic setting of dinner, candles, flowers and Pantera.

If the woman I married had had a similar interest in such music, it wouldn’t be a problem. We could share a delightful bubble bath while enjoying the sounds of Morbid Angel together. However, she is a grown woman, not an angry boy, and therefore is more interested in, say, The Shins or the Arcade Fire when it comes to listening to music for pleasure.

It’s not a problem, really, because I, too, am an adult, now, and notably less aggressive these days. If I need a fix of “Reign in Blood,” it’s easily accessed online; I don’t need to spend much time anymore with such expression. Plus, I’ve always been a music fan first; even when I subscribed to “Metal Maniacs,” I also listened to R.E.M., Willie Nelson, Ice Cube and lots of other different music.

In too many years of bad dating, I eventually learned this as well as other lessons, I guess, because someone married this, after all. While this distinction between the genders is, of course, not always so simple – I have 30-something female friends, who, unlike me, would still rather listen to Bad Brains than Joni Mitchell – I’ve found it to be fairly consistent.

In recent years, I’ve had another love – the “shuffle” button. Like many human Americans, my attention span has decreased over the past decade, thanks to evil, wonderful technology. I keep my music moving, sometimes unable to stay on a single song for too long. I’ve never wanted to be That Guy, the one who insists that “You have to hear this!,” plays a record for 20 seconds, then gets impatient and says, “No, wait! You need to hear this instead,” jumping from one to another like Jennifer Aniston picking a boyfriend.

So on a recent road trip to Chicago, I decided to try going back in time and selecting music the way the creator intended – one album at a time. The notion began simply enough; I thought 35 minutes of prime Beatles would get us moving in good spirits. Well, “Rubber Soul” led to the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street,” which, though a bit thick of a work for such a drive, still helped us push past the 2-hour mark.

I felt a need to keep it lighter, and skipped over Dylan for early Elton John. Fleetwood Mac would’ve been next but the lady at the lunch spot had the same idea, so the Zombies got moved up, which inspired Elliott Smith, a shared favorite.

The White Stripes proved to be “too garage-y,” or noisy, for delicate ears, and Radiohead proved too subtle for the highway, but mostly, it proved to be a successful attempt to keep two people content at the same time. Glenn Danzig may not be any happier now, but I am, and that’s all I ever wanted.

c. 2011 Velocity Weekly

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