10 Songs for Stranded Travelers
Nearly two weeks on from Hurricane Sandy, life is getting back to normal on the East Coast. That's great news for folks who suffered flooding or had their cars crushed by falling trees, but it's also swell for those unfortunate souls who were out of town when the storm hit. Anyone schedule to fly in the days after the deluge most likely got stuck shelling out for extra hotel rooms and spending hours on hold with their airline, dreaming up crazy routes to get home. Travel hiccups are no fun, but with the right music — a soundtrack like our latest Super Specific Weekly Playlist, say — they're a little easier to take.
Screw denial: The first stage in coping with a canceled flight is rage. “I'm riding on a midnight train / but everybody just looks just the same,” sings an audibly irked Chris Bailey on this '70s Aussie punk classic. He was envisioning a subway, not an airport tram, but the key line comes later: “I'm lost, babe, and I got no direction.” The list had to start here.
As the Clash once sang, “anger can be power,” so at this stage in the playlist, another ticked-off song is very much in order. “Right now, I just want to get the hell out,” sings Mick Collins, capturing the special kind of rage that comes with stasis. These sorely missed Motor City primitivists probably meant this as a love song, but let's be real: Bad relationships and endless airport lines really aren't that different.
‘Can’t Find My Way Back Home’
As we finally hit stage two and go from pissed to sad, our thoughts turn to vintage Dutch psychobilly. “I'm lost / Can't find my way back home,” frontman Jeroen Haamers croons, reminding us that even tatted-up dudes with big giant quiffs get homesick. There's a minor chord in the chorus the evokes Del Shannon's 'Runaway,' and for a brief second, these knuckleheads break your heart.
‘The Airport Line’
“From time to time, the airport line … ” We're never sure what these gentle British prog-popsters are on about, but singer Peter Brewis sounds pensive, contemplative and a touch heartsick. That pretty much describes our mood when we've been sitting at the terminal for too long, watching people schlep wheely bags and wishing we were anywhere else.
Another ploddingly pleasant tune about the monotony of travel, this one supposes “we're just held together by calendars and sex / Daily papers and a pack of cigarettes.” If the road is boring even for these Missouri indie rockers, who at least have the benefit of playing shows and perhaps chatting up the occasional female fan, what hope is there for the rest of us?
‘Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again’ (Bob Dylan Cover)
After a few days of eating continental breakfasts and breathing in toxic fibers from hotel carpets, sadness turns to boredom and annoyance, and that morphs into a kind of travel dementia. Reality slips through your fingers like a gum wrapper or discarded boarding pass, and you find yourself chilling in they alley with Shakespeare and dodging railroad men, lest they “smoke [your] eyelids.” Finally, you understand this Dylan classic, and you get why the ever-troubled Chan Marshall picked it to cover.
‘I Believe (In Travelin’ Light)’
Just when you think you've reached your breaking point, a spot opens up on a flight, or Hertz rewards your patience by upgrading you to an Escalade, and you're suddenly swept up in a rush of good feelings. B&S capture the euphoria with this ode to “magic waves just under the sky.” Home isn't going anywhere. Why not embrace your adventure?
Adventure means action and excitement, and into your noggin pop images of punk rock and Tarantino films. The two converge on this 1981 SoCal hardcore cover of the 1962 Dick Dale surf classic, featured on the 'Pulp Fiction' soundtrack. Blast this while you cruise around in your rental car and enjoy the extra day(s) wherever you're marooned. Dream of knocking off a diner but stop before you actually do it.
‘Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating in Space’
You feel like you're floating and space, so you naturally rock this, but it has the opposite effect and pulls you out of orbit. “All I want in life's a little bit of love to take the pain away,” sings Jason Pierce, and then it hits you: You can't bang around the country forever, untethered to anyone or anything. You want stability. You miss your bed and coffee machine. You'd like to go…
“Home will infect whatever you do,” Byrne sings, oozing tenderness, even as he describes a place “with the neighbors fighting,” “where my world is breaking in two.” It's not paradise, but it's where he wants to be, just as he declared on the Talking Heads classic 'This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody),' a precursor to this heartfelt jam.