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The Wrong Side of 30

How soundtracks can be your sole companion on-the-go

Vahishta Mistry Oct 10, 2012

Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life from Trainspotting

If you’ve ever been on a long road trip, you’ll agree that the driver is actually only the third most important person in the car. More important than the driver is the navigator, because without him you might as well not be moving. And the most important person of all is the person who’s deciding what music to play.

There are many kinds of road DJs. For example, there are the kinds who meticulously plan out their music weeks in advance, sorting playlists by mood and (in one anal-retentive case) by forward velocity of vehicle. (We never heard anything below 55 kph, that trip). Then you have the more fly-by-the-seats-of-their-pants variety, who bring tons of music but then spend ages scrolling through the ”˜All Songs’ list, trying to find the perfect song. And then you have the likes of my friend P, who once drove from Bombay to Goa (a 10-hour journey) with one song playing on loop. There were no narcotics involved, I’m told.

Whatever kind of road DJ you are, you have to agree that it’s a stressful job and at the end of the trip, there’s always some wiseass that claims he could have done better. No Brighton Beach or Paris nightclub DJ ever had to judge the mood of a crowd more finely than a DJ on a road trip. Veer too far into the maudlin and you slow progress right down to a crawl (and then finally a halt as people stop to make phone calls to loved ones they’re missing). Go too far into high BPM territory and you’re risking an inadvertent speeding up and eventual high-speed collision.

This is why I herald with great joy the arrival of new movie soundtracks. Gone are the days when you had to first find an artist and then find their best numbers on their best albums. By the time you ran through their discography you’d have spent loads of cash and / or bandwidth. If you’re looking for the money shots ”“ the quick hit songs that will get the other people in the car to nod along and hum ”“ then you need soundtracks.

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Soundtracks are like emotional software updates, delivered to your brain via audio input. Every time you want to change the mood, just think of a movie that made you feel the way you want the audience to feel and slap on the appropriate song! Looking to slow things down and drive in the middle of the road? You need a love ballad from a romantic comedy or an alternative rock number from a coming-of-age film. Fast-paced songs typically come from action movies and you can bring out the kid in you with songs from animated movies.

Obviously, it would be stupid to even attempt a compilation of the best soundtracks for driving purposes, but here are few that have saved my ass on many a long trip:

Trainspotting: Thanks to bad planning on my part, I once got stuck holding the iPod when the stretch of highway between Baroda and Ahmedabad came up. For those who haven’t driven it, it’s flat as a pancake with nary a curve for miles. It is therefore notorious to program for, since you need a song (or songs) that make it go by in a flash. I struggled the first three quarters through but Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life” from the Trainspotting soundtrack saved the day and we reached Ahmedabad feeling reasonably OK about the fact that we were in a state that had no alcohol and no meat.

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The Matrix: Although not structured to any theme as such, The Matrix soundtrack, specifically the B-side -for people who grew up after EPs: they had two sides that you had to”¦ you know what? I’m not doing this. I’m not explaining what a B-Side is. Wikipedia it ”“ anyway, the B-side was badass and was my go-to whenever a night-time trip was on the cards.

 Spawn: The soundtrack that introduced me to Korn, Orbital and The Crystal Method. If you haven’t heard this one, stop reading and click here. 

 Movie soundtracks are singlehandedly responsible for saving road trip experiences across the world ”“ a fact that I can attest to myself. But I have to admit that while the convenience really helps, I miss the depth that comes with exploring an artist’s repertoire”¦ Getting to know them intimately, their ups and downs, where they drew their influences from and so on ”“ these are things that you just can’t get from soundtracks. Soundtracks are like Chuck Palahniuk’s single serving friends. They’re great but very, very shallow and not much use beyond the initial few hours.

 I suppose getting everything in easier-to-consume bite-sized pieces is the norm these days, but sometimes, I wish we’d spend more time just basking in the rich fullness of experience as well. I certainly intend to.

Vahishta Mistry is 30, recently single, neurotic and opinionated. When not sharing cat pictures on the internet, he blogs about life, music, love and being old. A wannabe traveler, practiced couchsurfing host and responsible pet owner, he’s passionate about online privacy, cheap flights and getting those damned kids off his lawn.