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Less Obvious Ways to Die While Driving Around

Since the fiancee and I bought a (used, tired) car last June, things have been superb. She doesn’t have to take two buses to get to work and I . . . get to feel happy that she doesn’t have to take two buses to get to work. No, of course I’m being a doink; it’s very handy to have, and has spared our friends many ride-pleading phone calls.

One less salutary effect it has had on my life, however, is via the tape deck. Car radios are unpredictable and potentially life-threatening. One can be tooling along innocently only to be suddenly assaulted by the awful VOICE OF A DJ, and what happens? You burst into flames. Or worse, you could really fuck the dog and stumble onto a talk radio station. There you are, haplessly trying to avoid, say, Carly Simon, when this comes loping out of your speakers: “Liberals are all a bunch of Commie hand-wringing fairies!” (I may be paraphrasing.) What do you do then? There’s not much you can do: you pull over and quietly die.

And who needs that? You can’t just die whenever. How’s that going to play with the boss? “Where were you yesterday?” “I inadvertantly listened to talk radio and died.”

So hence the tape deck. But since all my tapes date to circa 1981-1989, the listening choices are thin. And horribly catastrophic: I stared down at my old collection with mounting horror a while back. Flesh for Lulu? The Screaming Blue Messiahs? Voivod? What the fuck? This was ghastlier than I had anticipated. The Woodentops? I fold. The idea of trying to listen to even a few songs, much less an entire tape, by any of these awful bands was inconceivable.

But then I hit on it: mixed tapes! I made many mix tapes while in college, and they are composed of a whole bunch of terrible songs by a revolving set of terrible bands! I can handle that. Or so I thought. Here’s a sampling of some songs off of a tape I was listening to recently. Notice how well they all hang together stylistically.

Clan of Xymox, “Phoenix of My Heart”

Nitzer Ebb, “Lightning Man”

Paul Simon, “The Coast”

Jesus Jones, “Lost in Space”

Revolting Cocks, “Attack Ships on Fire”

Danielle Dax, “Whistling for His Love”

The Smiths, “How Soon is Now?”

Lou Reed, “Fly Into The Sun”

Durutti Column, “Red Shoes”

What a depressing list. Not that there aren’t some good songs in there, but they should never share the same car. Fuck, they shouldn’t share the same freeway. Also, there are some fabulously awful songs in there: Jesus Jones? Better, a Jesus Jones song that nobody ever heard of? What’s wrong with me? Oh, and the Xymox song? It’s a terribly squishy synth-mope song that sounded dated about fifteen minutes after it was recorded in the studio, but it takes the Uncontrollable Crying and Vomiting Index sharply upwards at the end, where it segues, bafflingly and hideously, I shit you not, into a gooey, cooing cover of The Troggs’ “Wild Thing.” It really must be heard to be believed. And then never, ever heard again.

Much like talk radio.

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