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Music Picks

Songs for the Road (of Life and Asphalt)

Escape with some sing-along, filth and a good beat.

By Thom Wong 10 Apr 2008 | TheTyee.ca

Thom Wong, who is a drone in Her Majesty's Service, writes regularly about music for The Tyee, and can be found ruminating about the state of menswear at The Sunday Best.

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Don't try Celine Dion's 'I drove all night.'

It is an essential truth of any road trip that by the time you hit the 100 km mark, or pass a border, or stop at your first roadside diner to have the first of many life-threatening-yet-soul-affirming meals, you will have forgotten your reasons for leaving in the first place. The rhythmic meeting of tire to asphalt will have driven the original purpose out of your mind, and all that will be left is the open road and the music coming from your stereo.

The middle of the journey, that long stretch between no longer recognizing the city you left and still not recognizing the city you're going to, requires one of two things from its accompanying music: 1) lyrics you can sing along to, and 2) a propulsive beat to carry you that next mile.

Depending on your range, and memory for obtuse lyrics, Elbow's "Station Approach" fulfils both categories. It starts slow with a cryptic message about coming home and possibly being an architect. And then it builds and builds until lead singer Guy Garvey is intoning over and over that "I need to be in a town where they know what I'm like and don't mind," which kind of sums up the purpose of a road trip perfectly. The drums kick in and take you over the next hill.

There have been some disparaging comments lately on this very website about Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer." These are, in my opinion, utter nonsense: "Living on a Prayer" could be the greatest road-trip song ever written, with the exception of Aerosmith's "Livin' on the Edge."

But it can't all be guitars and hair, and when the dulcet tones of the misters Jovi and Tyler start to wear a little thin, you can count on Ol' Dirty Bastard's (may he rest in peace) "Got Your Money" to pick up the pace. Handclaps, an unforgettable baseline and filthy, filthy lyrics -- what else could you want? (It is important to note that Busta Rhymes with ODB's remix of "Woo Hah!" serves largely the same purpose.)

However, under no circumstances should you include Tom Cochrane's "Life is a Highway," which should only be listened to when you are extremely drunk, or when the only other option is Celine Dion's "I Drove All Night," hands down the creepiest song ever recorded.

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