…and sunglasses on while smoking a cigarette on a sunny summer day.
I don’t condone smoking, it is bad for you. I also don’t recommend driving too fast. I’ve gotten pulled over by the police several times and while they are usually very nice it doesn’t change the fact that you “done broke the law, son.” I’ve been pulled over twice in Nebraska. I often find myself traveling that lonesome stretch of I-80 between Colorado and Iowa, and I expect to do it many more times. I saw so many cops on the last run, I remember thinking to myself: maybe there is no crime in Nebraska other than speeding. So consider these songs a soundtrack to breaking the law. Just think, you are in Nebraska: a state where speeding is so rampant that driving the speed limit is considered suspicious behavior. So stick your middle finger out the window and mash that gas pedal into the floor. Yeah. Pretend there are potatoes under that foot.
Water and a Seat – Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks (Pig Lib, 2003)
Like most Malkmus tracks, the song is driven by guitar. It happens that, in my opinion, electric guitar goes well with driving far and fast. After you get through the misleadingly bouncy intro, a heavier guitar punches in as if from behind a veil. The whole thing is a slow burn of dissonance and listlessness: like this is the song all the cool kids at your high school listened to while you were playing hacky sack. Maybe that’s what Malkmus means by “brown rice clique.” His vocals are often unintelligible (see: Carrot Rope, Black Book, countless others from Pavement era and otherwise) but on this one they seem downright incoherent, there’s one part that just seems like several people mumbling all at once. How badass is that? Malkmus doesn’t give a shit, he just makes good music. You don’t give a shit either, do you?
Green River – Creedence Clearwater Revival (Green River, 1969)
I know these boys style themselves southern rockers but I get the distinct image of the desert in my head when I hear this song. Specifically, the 110-mile stretch of interstate between Salina and Green River, UT that has no services. It’s probably unlikely you’ll find many state troopers out there. Who knows though, I’ve only driven it twice. I’m not going to waste time describing this song to you; it’s one of CCR’s hits. That opening hook is an icon. So if you’re driving westbound on I-70 in Utah, make sure you stop and get gas before there are no services. While you’re there, might as well pick up a flat rock and skip it across Green River.
Catamaran – Kyuss (…And the Circus Leaves Town, 1995)
I understand that Kyuss is named for a Dungeons and Dragons monster of some kind, and after Kyuss disbanded its members formed Queens of the Stone Age. For me, this song manifests a manic atmosphere. The transition between the clean guitar and crooning vocals and the sludgy grunge refrain replicate the experience of driving cross-country. Sometimes I feel good and calm, and after awhile I look at the clock and think wow! Those last two hours were nothing! Other times, I feel manic and obscene. Maybe I have a disorder L.
Butterflies Drowned in Wine – Smog (Supper, 2003)
Of all the singing voices I’ve heard in my life, Bill Callahan’s is a standout. It sounds thick and gluey, like snow or pollution (smog?). This song seems like a bit of a departure from the Smog I grew to love (A River Ain’t too Much to Love), which feature Callahan’s powerful vocals over sparse arrangements of acoustic guitar and sometimes drums. (Check out I’m New Here). Butterflies Drowned in Wine, however, is a raucous romp of jammy electric guitar and thundery drums. It does slow down in a few places to a waltzy clean electric and folky slide, but that just makes you feel like you are going faster. It’ll also get stuck in your head. (Butterflies butterflies butterflies butterflies…)
Siberian Khatru – Yes (Close to the Edge, 1972)
Arguably one of the 70’s best progressive rock outfits, Yes makes this soundtrack a little bit more epic. Weighing in at 9 minutes long, it is not for the attention span impaired. If you like prog and you’re driving a long way, this song will snare even the most ADHD-riddled brains. Siberian Khatru employs some music theory gimmicks that I can only scratch the surface of. One thing I can tell you is that this song is poly-rhythmic, meaning it has more than one time signature simultaneously. My favorite part of the song is at roughly the four-minute mark, when you hear the intro again after a guitar solo. That’s the best part for reaching your max speed, the speed you only dare go for a few minutes. It gets better from there, the tail end of the track includes a lengthy Steve Howe guitar solo that I consider to be absolutely magnificent: some of his and Yes’ best work. Warp speed.
Show Me How to Live
Audioslave (Audioslave, 2002)
The last song on the soundtrack is one I listened to extensively in high school. If you know anything about Audioslave, you know that it’s a semi-supergroup: basically it’s Rage Against the Machine fronted by Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell. I’m hoping that my association between this song and driving fast doesn’t come from the music video (which has Cornell and the boys out for a little motor mischief), but either way this song makes me want to Trans Am. Tom Morello’s not really doing anything new on this one, still gnashing hooks and solos with sounds that make me look at my guitar and think how? (The answer to which, I think, is an issue of equipment.) Blast this shit on the highway and no one can resist burning a little rubber. Yeah. That smells like my childhood.
So if you take anything from this soundtrack, let it be: wear a seat belt. Because the rest of my advice is shitty, and I’ve got karma to consider.
Here are a few songs I considered but left out:
First it Giveth – Queens of the Stone Age
Jerry was a Race Car Driver – Primus
Friction – Television
Trans Am – Rose Hill Drive