In my three and a half years of delivering for a local pizzeria there have been very few lessons learned and even fewer new skills added to my resume. If you tracked every delivery there wouldn’t be a single street in town left untouched. If you accounted for all the money I’ve put into brake pads, tire replacements, oil changes, and day-to-day gas refills, the total would be in the tens of thousands. It’s not exactly something you’d find on a “best jobs” list. So what have I gained from spending half of my waking hours in a car? Days upon days worth of music listened to as well as a connoisseur-like attitude towards appropriate driving music. With 89.4% of people commuting by motor vehicle it’s a safe bet that you drive to work, so here are five songs not to listen to one your way home.
Be prepared to white-knuckle your steering wheel once this song starts, because someone has just cut the breaks. The opening track on Death Grips’ surprise album of 2013, Government Plates, is as far from relaxing as you can get. The glass breaking, screaming, and high-pitched buzzing sounds that open the track are perfect ingredients in a recipe for car crash foley work. The hurried recitation of complaints, commands, and slogans evokes an eerie combination of a frantic 911 call and an officer reading you your rights. Anticipate confused looks when you stop at an intersection.
Whether or not this track can even be referred to as a song is up for debate. John Lennon’s experimental sound collage found on the second half of the White Album is eight and a half minutes of utter chaos. Charles Manson believed it to be the sound of the apocalypse, which is really not that outlandish. Sirens, whispering, yelling, laughing, car horns, eerie piano lines, cryptic phrases, crashing sounds, church choirs, and a looped engineer’s voice saying “Numba nine” litter this track. And that’s accounting for maybe 20% of it. Sounds rapidly fade from left to right creating a spinning stereo image that is disorienting and deeply disturbing. Tape loops play in reverse over a crowd of people chanting at a football game. Again, the sound of car accidents appears throughout. For an especially bad time listen at night during a rain storm or heavy fog.
The minimalist compositions of Steve Reich are anything but disturbing. Pulsing, polyrhythmic, and subtly melodic “Music for 18 Musicians” is a tranquil yet complex piece of music that provides a truly soothing experience for the listener. So soothing that many might find it difficult to prevent themselves from nodding off at the wheel. Each movement is introduced in a wave of arpeggios that send the listener into an almost hypnotic state that is dreamlike to the point of being sleep inducing. Do not choose this as the soundtrack for your daily commute.
From beginning to end Lightning Bolt’s opening track to 2005’s Hypermagic Mountain is loud, fast, and aggressive. As everyone knows these are the three best qualities in a driver. I’m kidding. The fuzzy bass shredding and thrashing drums never let up, keeping their momentum going strong. It takes no stretch of the imagination to see even the most cautious driver speeding down a busy road while head-banging to this song.
If the monotony of the highway starts to lull you to sleep on your next road trip, a guaranteed cure is playing Amon Tobin’s “Piece of Paper.”. A strange combination of clinking, swirling, twisting, and crushing unidentifiable metal objects provides a vivid mental image of how Tobin could have created such a song. If that doesn’t remind you of a horrific accident, I don’t know what will.
Written by Dylan Ellison