Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Train in vain

Not so good for listening to on trains: Love Is All; Delta 5 KRS comp/reissue; These New Puritans; The Queen Is Dead; Standing on a Beach; No Shouts, No Calls. The reigning champion of train-appropriate records is still Either/Or. The key is genre but also mood; anything jerky and aggressively up-tempo (post-punk obviously a no-no) doesn't cohere with the locomotive roll and you end up unable to enjoy either the music or the motion.

Trains really are the transportation of the future. In addition to the constant promise of Lady Vanishes-style Hitchcockian shenanigans you also get, on most trips longer than eight hours, double-decker levels with staircases, crazy-spacious bathrooms, water fountains, exciting theme cars (observation! dining! ladies' lounge!) and an entire bank of seats to yrself, since everybody else has paid triple the price to get an inner earache whilst squished into an airplane seat between a crying baby and an investment banker scream-brokering into his cell phone.

I could live happily on this train for several days, or as long as the carrot stick supply held out. If I stayed on I could be in Portland by Thursday. At the moment I am scooting through the marshes of Wisconsin. Did you know Wisconsin had marshes? Neither did I. It also has some smallish mountains that, on second thought, are probably only ambitious hills. In Michigan there were wild turkeys. See America by train! It'll surprise you!


Anonymous said...

Very awesome entry.

Courtney said...

When I moved to Texas, I hopped a flight from Philly to Chicago and then took a train down to Austin. It was about a 30 hour ride, with delays, but totally worth it. There's something about being able to physically see the gradual shift in landscape that's deeply satisfying and comforting, at least to me. And also, I was then able to enter Texas with the appropriate level of respect for its obscenely enormous size, because I had watched about half of it trawl by my window.

One of my favorite genres of music is "Songs about Trains" (um, maybe this is a subgenre, or better yet, a theme. Whoops, sorry language). There are a few on the Magnetic Fields album The Charm of the Highway Strip that are great (namely, "Born on a Train" and "Fear of Trains"), and the folk song "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" has at least one variant that starts it off being about "the longest train I ever saw" (Smog did a cover of that version, I think).

As for actually listening to music on a train, though, I agree with your assessment-- something that jives with the movement. Elliot Smith would be lovely, and I'm envious I didn't think of him for my long ride. I'm mentally making lists of train trip music now, and keep going back to bossa nova. I bet Nouvelle Vague would be fun to listen to.

What are you reading on the train? And do you have internet?

Lizzie said...

I was reading this:

zach cheeley said...
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Anonymous said...

Zach: no, I'm not on Facebook. But thanks for reading and commenting. What musics are you into? Where do you hang yr metaphorical hat?

Courtney: Why is it impossible to find The Charm of the Highway Strip in every record store I go into? I have been trying to answer this question for some time now. I'm afraid I just can't get behind Nouvelle Vague.

mairead said...

Secret: I have to turn off the music when I get on the El because it feels too weird to listen to certain things while moving in a car instead of on yr legs. I know you understand this.

zach cheeley said...
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