Stuff We Sell

Songs for the Road


While driving through the south last week with Soccer Team, the three of us participated in what I’m certain is a common activity during long drives: we played DJ for each other. Whoever was lucky enough to sit shotgun was charged with the important task of entertaining the driver and backseat passenger with a continuous mix of music that would often be immediately familiar, sometimes brand new, but always interesting and engaging enough to keep the driver awake (you know you’re on the right track when you spot the driver swaying his/her head along with the tune; for best results, try pretty much anything by AC/DC).
Due in part to the appeal of singing along as a means of staying awake at the wheel, instrumentals rarely come into play during a Shotgun-DJ’s shift. Instrumentals have to be worked into a set strategically. The timing has to be just right, and the song has to fit the mood established by the previous song. It’s not a job for a novice (although there’s more than enough time to become an expert while driving on I-10 East), but if you’re up for giving it a try the next time you’re on a road trip, here are my recommendations from the Dischord catalog:

FUGAZI: “Sweet and Low” from In On the Kill Taker
Killtaker has always been a favorite of mine, and a massive (but often unspoken) part of the charm of that record is the sequencing. “Facet Squared” butted against “Public Witness Program” has to be one of the better 1-2 punches in history. Flip the record over and side two opens quite differently (yet equally gripping) with the instrumental, “Sweet and Low.” It’s an incredibly delicate and thoughtful way to coax the listener into flipping the record. Brendan Canty somehow found a way to be both subtle and bombastic with each drum roll that coasts smoothly into each build-up of this short song. And it’s impossible to avoid bobbing your head along with the steady pace of the ride and snare.

THE AQUARIUM: “Maxxo Sesh” from their self-titled CD
Like “Bone Machine” or “Taxman” or Lungfish’s “The Words” (from Necrophones), I’ve got no problem putting Aquarium’s “Maxxo Sesh” up on the list of Greatest Opening Songs Ever. Don’t let the instrumental factor fool you: by no means is this background music. Crank the car stereo as loud as it can go and prepare to drown in the majesty and wonderment of The Aquarium.
I love this song because it transcends genre. Huge beat, massive fuzzed out bass tones, dreamy delay – is it rock? is it hip-hop? is it punk? is it some weird outtake from Check Your Head?
Nope … it’s just ... it's just Aquarium.

LUNGFISH: “At Liberty to Say” from Pass and Stow
Clocking in at just under two and a half minutes, this song has been a favorite of mine since Pass and Stow was released in 1994. It opens with some nonabrasive feedback and fades into a beautifully noisy, layered, and remarkably alluring song. This is the perfect tune to have queued up when you need to cleanse the palette after bombarding the road trip listeners with everything from Mingus to Off.

As always, thanks for reading.


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