Friday, February 3, 2017

Riding Music: Spiderman of the Rings (Dan Deacon)

It occurred to me that I don't give nearly enough credit to musicians for helping me out on tour.  Between brutal climbs and monotonous farm flats, music helps keep my mind occupied when it needs distraction most.  I'm mostly a podcast guy on tour (safer since they allow outside noise in past my headphones), but there are times that the savage beast needs to be soothed.  So before I head out on tour, I make sure my music library is stocked with some music for when I need it most.  That said, here's one my usual picks:

Spiderman is transitional Deacon, residing somewhere between the completely absurdist cassettes and the more traditional (relative term) Bromst.  It is frenetic, ridiculous, and spectacular, and packs enough energy to push the most exhausted butt up a climb.  It's also complex and nuanced enough that if you're able to zone out and fall completely into the album, you'll catch bits and pieces of patchwork sounds you'd never noticed, even after dozens of listens.  If you've never given Deacon a listen, here's a good start:

The intro to "Snake Mistakes" was the ringtone on my phone for a while.  
It was not a popular ringtone among my co-workers.

Spiderman has a few things going for it that make it ideal for my rides, the biggest being crescendos and absurdity.  The first one, crescendos, are what pack the punch for getting me through the worst parts of a ride.  My favorite track on the album, "Jimmy Joe Roche", is a constant interweaving of rises and falls that lead to an auditory tidal wave crashing down and drowning out any outside thoughts, good or bad.  Almost a forced meditation by yelling louder than any voices bouncing around in my skull.  Maybe it's not a tidal wave.  Maybe each build up adds light to a ball of energy glowing in my chest, and the final climax ignites an internal explosion that breaks down ATP bonds and blows away lactic acid.  Yeah, it's one of those two.  In either case, it works.  Just listen for yourself:

Not many better riding songs.

Then there's absurdity.  Absurdity should be something we all embrace every day.  We are all absurd people, each living absurd lives, but instead of embracing the fact that life is ridiculous, we try our hardest to normalize and fit in.  There is freedom in absurdity, in admitting that the things we do don't make that much sense.  That life itself doesn't make that much sense.  Why does it make sense to dress intentionally ugly to attract a mate?  Why does it make sense to spend $3 on a coffee that cost $.20 per cup, and then tip an extra dollar for that barista to buy more ugly clothing to attract a potential mate?  Why does it make sense to trade the 40 best hours of the week (at a minimum) to someone much wealthier than us in exchange for money to buy overpriced coffee that we need to make up for the lack of sleep we get because we've sold over a third of each day to the highest bidder?  It's completely ridiculous, but we think it's normal.

For that reason, you need Spiderman of the Rings.  Life doesn't make much sense, but we still try to make up a story to fit all the disjointed pieces of reality together, ignoring the fact that the end result is just a shitty Mad Lib.  Instead of forcing incongruous pieces of sound together in a way that sounds the most "normal", Deacon puts them together the way he wants to hear them.  He's willing to follow his ear's heart and making something that sounds beautifully and absurdly honest.  And that really strikes a chord with me on tour.  There is nothing "normal" about riding bicycle through the middle of the Smoky Mountains in the middle of the night, but goddamn does it feel good.  If feeling good isn't normal, then I'll take absurd.

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