Saturday, March 24, 2012

Drive He Said

You give me a time and a place, I give you a five minute window. Anything happens in that five minutes and I'm yours. No matter what. Anything happens a minute either side of that and you're on your own.

One of my favorite things to do is drive.

I like everything about driving a car from getting into it, sliding onto the seat, putting the key in the ignition and firing up the engine. I still think its a miracle of engineering and science that we're able to do this thing - an activity most people take for granted.

I don't own a high-end vehicle but that doesn't matter, I still like to drive. I like the way the car moves around corners and I like to punch the gas every once in a while just to go from 30 to 70 in a heartbeat.

Driving takes an incredible amount of control and cerebral acuity but because the act is engrained into us at an early age, the mental and physical feat required to be good at it are absorbed deeply into the subconscious and driving eventually becomes rote. However, I never take it for granted and simply love the feel of an automobile.

When I was younger I drove with more experimentation - I'd try things that I wouldn't consider now: power slides, j-turns, ice driving, neutral drops, fish tailing, daring speeds in reverse.

The act of driving now is more deliberate - it isn't about trick riding and speed - its about skill, accuracy and feel.

Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive is about a man trying to sustain control over his life and his job. Played by Ryan Gosling, his character is simply called Driver, a name that defines him. His frozen emotional state begins to melt when he meets Irene (Carey Mulligan) but Driver can't let his emotions rule his controlled psyche - he'd rather die.

Of course, control is an illusion and it eventually blows apart.

But when you drive, control is everything.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Having a Field Day

Marshall Crenshaw's 1983 album Field Day is about love and all of its trappings - particularly new love (not necessarily young love) and how it at first enraptures then eventually obsesses and blows apart.

Decidedly from a male perspective, the album is wonderous, naive and angry. Though you might miss the angry part as the tunes are so bright and hooky that, after a couple of listens, the songs are engrained into your subconscious - and not cloying.

It doesn't take long in Crenshaw's 10-song book to realize the singer spirals quickly from reverential love to frightening obsession to final, lonely acceptance of loss.

Field Day actually spawned a hit in 1983 (albeit on "alternative" radio stations) - the epic pop masterpiece Whenever You're On My Mind, which is sweetness turned to aching and addictive longing:

I never thought I'd be in this situation
It seems wherever I go I'm with you
And though I never seem to find my place
At every turn I see your face

But its One Day With You that captures love's dangerous ability to push people toward things they might not otherwise do (with self-deprecating tongue-in-cheek) - especially if the love is forbidden:

For one day with you
I'd risk ruin, pain and degradation
For one day with you
I would gladly ruin my reputation
Just to feel your hand, resting on my knee
I'd face danger, death or injury
Oh...believe me

Crenshaw's lyrics are so astute that if the words weren't wrapped in such gorgeous pop melodies, these songs would be downright scary. Thing is, they're all true.

At the time of its release, Field Day was considered "over-produced" by Steve Lillywhite (U2, Psychedlic Furs, Peter Gabriel, Dave Matthews, Talking Heads, Ultravox, and other notables). But hearing it now - especially on vinyl - the album is warm with dynamic range that's nuanced and subtle. Maybe in '83 it was considered overblown (the drums have an unnatural echo), but its a sonic joy. Scott Litt (the dBs, REM, Juliana Hatfield, Nirvana, Liz Phair, the Replacements) cut his teeth as engineer on Field Day.

Crenshaw's guitar work amplifies the comparable Buddy Holly hiccup - in fact Buddy Holly's ghost is always floating in the background of this record.

Field Day Tracks:

Whenever You're On My Mind
Our Town
One More Reason
One Day With You
For Her Love
Monday Morning Rock
All I Know Right Now
What Time Is It?
Hold It