I drove into Millbrae this morning to run a few errands. On the way the car iPod played, consecutively, songs by Rancid, The Carpenters, Grateful Dead, Charlie Daniels Band, ABBA, Bachman Turner Overdrive and Soundgarden. This kind of whiplash juxtaposition of genres and styles always makes me smile, but I started wondering about it. After all, I put these songs on that iPod. Every song on there is one that I love and have a significant history with. If they are all so random and dissimilar, why do they all fall into the classification of mikey's favorites?
The conclusion I arrive at is that, rather than choosing music based on band or genre, I seem to choose music at the granularity of individual songs. And the thing that can initially attract me to a specific song is often a very small, highly specific thing like the drum line in the chorus of Metallica's "Fuel", the first 60 seconds of "Cherub Rock", or that 'happy/ominous' riff in "Hooligan's Holiday", a single line like "Time to count the voices in your head" in Kilzer's "Green, Yellow and Red" or "Standing in the sun with a Popsicle" in the wonderful "Without a Trace", or even just a unique guitar sound like in Bush's "Comedown" or Boston's "Hitch a Ride" or even Springsteen's "Born to Run".
But the main thing these songs tend to have in common is melody. They are singable - they have a distinct and distinctive tune, and even when they are only playing in my head I can sing along. Much of the reason I am so fond of punk, particularly the punk of the 90s represented by Rancid, Greenday and Offspring is that the songs are perfectly melodious - listen to Rancid's "Salvation" and tell me it wouldn't make an excellent elevator instrumental. That's the thing that binds me to the likes of Guy Clark, Tim Armstrong, Roger Clyne, Dave Pirner, Brad Delp, Axl Rose and Linda Ronstadt.
I am not promiscuous musically. Once a song becomes a favorite, it tends to remain one forever. I add new favorites rarely, largely because it's just that much harder to be exposed to new music these days, and so much of it is sonically unpleasant. Gaslight Anthem's "We came to dance" and The Sounds "No one sleeps when I'm awake" are still considered new favorites even today. With the singularly amazing Google Music, I can play any song I want, and while it's playing it will make me think of another song or two, so I play them, and they lead me to others, and before you know it, just like that, I have a whole new playlist populated by old favorites that I can play obsessively for the next week or so. For someone like me - someone who loves music without being particularly into music, it is the perfect solution, a non-stop supply of joyful noise.