Scene, 12:30pm this afternoon at the Times Square subway station:
Me, stepping onto the 7 train platform, iced coffee in hand, messenger bag slung across my back, en route to The Car (final destination: Boston) — this being the ill-timed moment when I remembered the need for some actual compact discs to play in the portable CD player (plus car tape-deck adapter) that I’d placed in said bag just before heading out. Doh! It goes without saying that I hadn’t remembered to pack any cassettes, either.
So after grooving with my iPod on the 7, it was just me and my car radio for the next 3 hours, 15 minutes (zoom!). When stuck with just the radio, I’ll usually cop out and listen to the news or NPR, alternating with silence when I’m sick of hearing about the backup on the Bruckner Expressway for about the three hundredth time. But this time I decided to actually try to listen to music for most of the ride, hoping to find something, anything that wouldn’t make me feel like yanking out the ignition key and jabbing it into my eye.
First was a cursory run-through of all the frequencies on the FM dial while crossing the Throgs Neck bridge. Discouraging. Classical, jazz, overplayed seventies rock, talk radio, emo-riffic boy rock, schmaltzy eighties pop, nu-metal, and commericals, commercials, commercials punctuated by all too many static silences. Then I remembered a conversation I’d had with Douglas awhile back where he was singing the praises of this or that hip-hop/urban radio hit while I kind of looked at him skeptically, confessing my ignorance of all current popular music. Okay… what the hell… I tuned my radio to Hot 97 and let the beats fly (or something).
About two minutes in, a song came on that caught my attention, chorus sounds familiar — Oh! This was one of the songs that Douglas was telling me about, specifically the lyrics. Whoa yeah, dirty lyrics. Really catchy, but not public sing-along material (at least not for me!). Er, should I be admitting that I kind of like this?
The next two songs were kind of blah, though, so I lost patience and went back to punching the tuner button. Before I break into a few verses of “Radio, Radio,” my notes from the field:
- Judging by the amount of collective airplay, Talking Heads, R.E.M. and U2 are truly the new “classic rock.” Not that I mind listening to “Burning Down the House” yet again.
- On the other hand: coming across “In Your Eyes” three times in the span of an hour? Jesus. Sure, I remember being sixteen and going to see Say Anything… and sniffling as John Cusack held up his boom box to Ione Skye’s window, but… enough! Play “Games Without Frontiers” or “Solsbury Hill” or something. Peter Gabriel did write some other good songs, fer chrissakes.
- Weirdest transition: from Interpol‘s “Stella Was A Diver And She Was Always Down” to some reggae/dub thing that was soon obscured by static as I drove out of range. God, I love college radio.
- Very few stations came through clearly, leading me to believe that either my car antenna sucks, or there are simply too few small radio stations out there capable of sustaining a signal within a greater-than-five-mile radius. Also, what genius car engineer decided to get rid of the stereo/mono button? I remember, as a kid, being able to press the button on my mom’s car stereo to “mono” whenever I needed to remedy a staticky stereo reception.
- Even the new Sheryl Crow single doesn’t sound half-bad when you’re stuck listening to the radio in the middle of a weekday. Too late for Breakfast of Champions, too early for Record Hospital. < sigh >
Tomorrow I am going to the Apple Store in Cambridge to see if I can pick up one of those car adapter kits for my iPod. It’s either that, or put the new Wire EP I’ll be buying at the show tomorrow on repeat for the 3+ hours it will take for me to drive back to New York.