Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Driving Rock: The Frontier

(Disclaimer we aren't promoting “driving rock” as a genre or even an acceptable term).

In a recent article Niall was quite critical of so called Driving Rock. Is this phenomena total commercial nonsense? Or something more? In particular, does sitting behind the wheel of a car actually add to the listening experience? Absurd, surely.

Lets be honest, it probably is absurd. Though music can certainly add to the driving experience. In the same way it can soundtrack the stacking of shelves, dark city streets (I'm thinking Ulver's Perdition City) or the ritual sacrifice of small animals.

It seems only fair however to offer a contrary view. And what better way to do that by discussing an album which tore onto the scene as potentially the best driving album of all time (recommendations welcome).

Because whilst we may be sitting in traffic. We may be shouting at the prick who doesn't know how to use their indicators at the roundabout. Or maybe it’s just raining. Falcon (ex-Circle)’s Frontier is there to give us the belief that we've got the wind in our hair, free as a bird. We are on the adventure of our lives, the open road. Destination 60mph!

Without getting too caught up in the identity of Falcon (ex-Circle) it is certainly worth devoting a few lines to provide an overview, or to the uninitiated an introduction. The part in brackets is a bit of a give away, though not completely helpful. Finland’s Circle, prolific and ever changing and morphing in their style and identity are the culprits behind this release, swapping their name temporarily to Falcon (ex-Circle). The following output from the group was Circle (ex-Falcon). But you feel any confusion you’ll be happy to know they are back to plain Circle. This year’s gem was Pharaoh Overlord, which conveniently shared a release date with their alter-ego band Pharaoh Overlords’ Circle.

Anyhow, 2013s Frontier, is basically an anthemic classic rock album, but for the modern age. It has glam and cheese, but it feels tongue in cheek and is incredible catchy. The fast paced record is a love story. The love of a woman, the open road, and of course Beer and Ribs.

Frontier opens the album and sets the scene. Some seriously retro, but not dated keyboards complement a classic guitar led sound. “Ranger of the frontier, counting down his days”. The lyrics often conjure a quite visual narrative and need to be commended for such. Similarly, the use of synthesizers in a modern way often feels key to setting this album aside to anything comparable. We begin in the wilderness but where we are heading is anyone’s guess.

Beer and Ribs focus on drinking and eating and general frivolity bring us back to more immediate and pressing concerns. The synth here just teases. It feels like they have struck gold. Thematically this track sets up the album in a tradition of simple rock songs, which essentially avoid nuance and drive solely towards “booze, rock and girls”. Fortunately, Circle’s classic motorik rhythm progresses the track, and it’s this groove which hurtles you forward whilst the almost comically overt lyrical topic assures us we haven’t stepped back into the 70s.

The central block of tracks offer feel good, heated escapades of driving, fleeting passion and adventure. Partners in Crime, the reckless abandon. Ace of Hearts, a relationship burning fast and bright. And Bringers of the Dawn, perhaps a moment of much needed reflection.

Leather Seat is perhaps the new driving anthem and key really to my bold proclamation that this is the best driving album of all time. So, instead of offering any sort of review, I’ll offer the lyrics as they provide much more much greater synopsis than I could.

My mother she used to warn me
Someday you will fall asleep
At the wheel and die
That ain’t no lie.

Ride on
This long road is my kingdom
Ride on
My throne is the leather seat
I know
These freeways like my blue veins
I know
The engine gives the key
To my dreams
And that’s the only place where I sit still.

Miami Tits and Seasoned Girl (I’ll Go Crazy) close the album and end our love story. Until the car CD player starts it right back at the beginning and you realise you've moved 5 miles in the past 43 minutes.

Basically if you’re driving and you can’t quite handle the intensity of Sunrise or any other of Circle’s motorik obscenities at 6am, this album is for you. If you are a classic rock fan and you need a fix, this album is for you. If you’re behind the wheel, here is some sustenance.

And at a time when we seem to be driving for longer to get to our jobs which pay less and less and seem more and more pointless, Falcon (ex-Circle) will be there for us.


Sunday, 18 October 2015

Not-Driving Rock: 7 Hits of Pure Vehicular Abstinence

What the hell is driving rock?

From my cynical understanding the term is the music industries representation of the way greetings card companies fabricate new days of forced celebration to inspire people to remember they actually care. Your dad probably has several. These compilations consist of predominantly 'adult-orientated' rock, with the occasional song that has some loose reference to cars/driving/speed etc just in case you couldn’t ascertain that this is intended to be played in the car. I'm unsure quite how this is supposed to enhance the driving experience. Most of the compilations could simply be released as a classic rock album instead. 

Admittedly some have managed to compile a decent selection of songs, yet insinuating that you need to be behind the wheel of a car for maximum listening experience seems a strange notion. As a non-driving peasant I guess I'm not supposed to understand. In this article I will describe several reasons for my reluctance to commit to automobile ownership and simultaneously provide you with an inspirational alternative soundtrack. 

Just one example of the diversity of these playlists, although personally I would be more likely to deliberately crash the car than be forced to listen to Phil Oakley.

1. Liberate the legs, enslave the wallet

Buying and running a car would effectively reduce my monthly wage to mere pennies. Petrol costs, road tax, insurance, maintenance. None of which I could comfortably afford. Then most people don’t. Get the car on credit if you are old enough to have accumulated an acceptable credit score or rely on your parents to fund everything. I can reasonably assume that the vast majority of all young or first time drivers contribute next to nothing to the financial implications of driving. Mommy and Daddy bought you the car because you did well in your A Levels, they pay your ludicrously high insurance as you are a significant liability and they give you the money for petrol every week because lets face it, that McDonalds drive-through isn’t going to order itself is it?

Weezer - Surf Wax America

I would totally surf to work, if I lived on a beach... and worked on a different part of the same beach.

2. Driving lessons can be murder

Cars are bad for the environment and I don’t mean in the traditional and perpetually debatable ‘Global Warming’ argument. I mean every time I get behind the wheel of a car, things die. Before you consider me some kind of vehicular maniac, I should specify the only body count I have amassed has come from the local wildlife and not the locals themselves. On my first ever opportunity behind the wheel, I ran over a Cat… on Christmas Eve. Scooping its limp body out of the road was traumatising enough, but a few years later whilst having actual lessons I managed to get more feline blood on the tires. After sitting in the car with the instructor going over all the necessary basics, I pulled off her driveway and rolled straight over her beloved pet who was having a snooze under the rear tire. I never got a second lesson. Fast forward another few years whilst receiving unofficial lessons from a previous girlfriend. Two birds mutually decided to end it all and exploded off the front bumper. The bodies were never recovered. After hastily exiting the car to gaze out at the shower of feathers, I held a moments remembrance, then thoughtfully considered that I clearly posses the same ecological impact as traditional Chinese medicine. 

Jimmy Eat World - Night Drive

It's not about driving the car, it's about having sex in it, which is much more enjoyable... I've heard.

3. Conveniently deluded

Life is not meant to be easy and convenient. It is meant to challenge you with obstacles such as distance or the elements, so you both adapt and appreciate the luxuries more. But as humanity we want everything as easy as possible and with the least effort. This is what excessive driving does and subsequently creates this artificial sense of dependency that renders your legs seemingly useless. If your destination is less than two miles away, walk or cycle. You will feel better for it. I envision the technological advancements that will no doubt arrive over the next few years. Robot cars with built in HD televisions and Twitter coming as standard. Soon humanities greatest achievement will involve commuting on a giant smart phone whilst comsuming a mixed grill. 

Pantera - Walk

Just walk on home, boy.

4. Wide Load

One of the worst kinds of people that inhabit this planet is the (admittedly specific)
"I just passed my driving test, but my obvious and rapid weight gain is completely unrelated to it." We live in a morbidly obese culture where moderate exercise such as walking or even cycling is considered unnatural. I experience this first hand where I work. The shopping center has no pedestrian access and so the only way to visit is by car or bus. Consequently, it is not uncommon to find yourself surrounded by the type of patrons who have somehow managed to force themselves between the seat and their steering wheel to complete the arduous task of going to Marks and Spencer’s for some posh sausages. They shuffle around the mall, taking numerous seating breaks or hire a mobility scooter in turn creating the most tragic interpretation of Mario Kart possible. I am as unsympathetic to the overweight as they are to whatever they sit on. Walking is good exercise, cycling even more so, yet trying to suggest healthy alternatives is as deluded an idea as the individual who orders a diet coke with their McDonalds.

Nine Pound Hammer - Run Fatboy, Run

Run like your life depends on it, as it probably does.

5. Borrowed Time

People are effectively held hostage by rising petrol prices. We’ve already established that most of society considers themselves one with their wheels, yet they see no alternative to pouring away huge amounts of money at the cost of a slight amount of inconvenience and/or comfort. It’s a well known fact that soon the worlds resource of crude oil will run out. Maybe not in our lifetime, but a bit of forward thinking couldn’t go amiss. Maybe we should consider educating the preceding generations to expect the worst? Except we wont. Oil is big business, as long as huge amounts of money are being made in the present day, those in control of the oil couldn’t give a flying toss about the future. Their cryogenically frozen heads will be counting all their digital cash whilst everyone else tries to remember how to use their legs.

Piebald - Roll On

It's no coincidence that songs about not driving are far more uplifting.

6. Too fast, Too young

Society is adept at convincing its youth how to behave. Currently it seems that learning to drive is being forced upon the younger generations. The youth are impressionable, yet more importantly profitable. They are conditioned to want the fastest, most stylish looking cars, which keeps the insurance companies pockets full and the government gets a tasty slice of your road tax and the subsequent taxation on petrol. As previously stated, the only people that feel the sting are usually the parents. There are now classes that can teach those aged 14-17 to drive. What exactly does a 14 to 17 year old even need a car for? The only driving I cared about when I was that age was on Nintendo. Instead we end up with a very lazy generation, who view going for a drive as a productive pastime. Cars are meant for families and long distance commuters, not teenagers just off down the shops or racing around country lanes at three times the speed limit.  

OPM - Heaven is a Halfpipe

Yeah, why not? Totally not running out of ideas...

7. Not-rushing Hour

Have you seen the roads recently? I personally haven’t as regardless of the time of day, they are consistently gridlocked. The cruel paradox of the ‘rush hour’ is that no one rushes. Bristol was recently awarded the illustrious recognition of ‘Green Capital of Europe.’ We must have some revolutionary recycling going on here as the city is considerably failing in the category of traffic management. My entire cycle commute is spent seamlessly weaving through stationary cars.(For a more detailed description click here) I have colleagues who yet living closer than me, drive to work and I can get there quicker. Just call me Bradley Wiggins. The truth is that the majority of Bristol (and most other large cities I presume) attempt to travel at the same time. The increase in traffic and simultaneous decrease in the national speed limit, will soon make it quicker to walk to work and considering the methodology behind how speed cameras are enforced, the higher powers will soon be issuing speeding tickets for running and charges for remaining stationary for longer than twenty minutes.

System of a Down - Bounce

The world would be a much better place if everyone rode a pogo stick to work.