Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Just a little over a year ago, a few of the boys and I started writing for a now-defunct little site called Criminal Complex. The following is a piece I wrote early in 2012 and which was pretty well received, but for reasons too boring to go into here, it became unavailable at some point. Now it is not unavailable, so please read it with your eyes and make them pleased, my darlings.
It’s a typical Friday night: you’re enjoying a leisurely drive in your 1970 Dodge Charger through the dangerous part of town at 3 AM. You’ve been patiently comparison-shopping for PCP, but have yet to meet a merchant who “heard what you were saying.” Understandably frustrated, you light a big fat Cohiba to ease your nerves, only to accidentally blow a stop sign, which has been covered with graffiti. Suddenly, the familiar red-and-blue lights flash in your rear-view mirror. Uh-oh. Well, you could pull over like a good citizen, but then your countless warrants will come up on the computer once the officer runs your license. Plus, he or she may discover the mini pot closet you built in the trunk. Yeah, looks like it’s gonna have to be a hot pursuit.
Thing is you can’t count on the radio to supply music fitting for the occasion, no matter how much you might like that Black Keys song. But we here at Criminal Complex have got you covered. Just take the songs listed in no particular order below here, burn them to a CD, and then keep the disc at the ready in the CD changer your cousin shoplifted from K-Mart for you. These tunes will certainly give you the adrenaline edge over the five-oh, and if not, they will make for a pleasant listening experience for your last fleeting moments of freedom. So enjoy, and happy motoring!
“Ace of Spades” by Motörhead—A classic to start with. It seems kinda generic, but this remains my favorite Motörhead song of all time. If it’s good enough for the Young Ones to play as they race for the train station in that one episode, it’s good for a quick unplanned trip to Juarez. The bass intro into the drum roll is ideal for accelerating from 0 to 60 to 120. Plus the lyrics are an existential treatise in the inherent role chance plays in life. So if you get caught, you can simply shrug and say, “That’s the way I like it, baby, I don’t want to live forever.”
“Foggy Mountain Breakdown” by Flatt & Scruggs—Another classic, this one of a different era. Utilized to great effect in the 1967 love story Bonnie and Clyde, this song is perfect for running shine past the federals in the blue hills of Kentucky or West Virginia. Though the song has become a standard and multiple versions of it abound, you’re far better off sticking with this original version used in the film, performed by Earl Scruggs (who wrote it) and Lester Flatt with their Foggy Mountain Boys. The way the banjo comes back in after the fiddle solo is enough to huckle your berries, let me tell you.
“Night Rider” by Dick Dale—I suppose we have Quentin Tarantino to thank for welding surf music and crime fiction together in the subconscious of America, at least for the last fifteen years or so. But without Dick Dale, this would not have been possible. The self-proclaimed King of the Surf Guitar is still going strong today after 40-odd years, and King is a title the man has earned. 1958’s “Let’s Go Trippin’” is widely considered to be the first surf rock instrumental, and of course Dale’s surf version of the old Greek standard “Misirlou” was used as the intro to Pulp Fiction and could easily fit on this list here. However, I’ve opted for “Night Rider” instead, which unless I’m grossly mistaken, first appeared on Dale’s 1963 Checkered Flag album, his foray into one of surf music’s early deviations into hot-rod culture (certainly relevant here). And I’m not sure what it is, but when I take a curve on the highway as this song reaches about the minute-and-a-half mark and goes into that bridge part, I’m lucky if I don’t get hauled over to the shoulder by Johnny Law for reckless endangerment.
“Police Truck” by the Dead Kennedys—This one is perhaps a little more mid-tempo than the others on this list, but I think the subject matter and its presentation more than make up for that. Many, many bands to come out of the early days of the punk scene wore their politics (left or right) on their sleeves, but perhaps none as much as San Francisco’s Dead Kennedys. Since you’ll be playing this song as you attempt to elude the long arm of the law, a song about the gross abuses of power in which some police officers indulge ought to help in keeping your blood-pressure levels sufficiently high to aid your focus. And the “Ride, ride, how we ride” chorus adds that automotive flavoring.
“Raining Blood” by Slayer—Actually, just about any track off Reign in Blood, Slayer’s classic third album (produced by the mighty Rick Rubin), will only heighten the intensity of a police chase, or indeed, any situation you find yourself in. Personally, I’m partial to the opening track, “Angel of Death,” but that almost seems too easy. “Altar of Sacrifice” is another good one, but I like to save that for religious purposes when at all possible. Still, your best bet is “Raining Blood,” but you’re going to want to time the intro carefully. Whatever illegal act you’re performing, try and make sure there’s just about thirty seconds between its commission and the police attempting to cite you for it. That way, you apply the gas just as that infamous riff kicks in, and ten seconds later, when the song starts in earnest, you’ll have hit the on-ramp going the wrong way, and the chase can really start.
“The Bomb” by Ice Cube—Before he became at all family-friendly, Ice Cube was the social nightmare of both police and white middle-class parents the nation over. After his publicly nasty split with N.W.A back in the early ‘90s, he released his best work ever, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, produced by Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad team. Though his entire rap career is nothing to sneeze at, Cube was never angrier than he was on this record, and the final track, “The Bomb” is a nice tight synopsis of all that rage, with a beat you can shake your ass to. Or in this case, shake the cops off your tail to. If you’re loyal to Cube’s first group, you can go ahead and replace this track with N.W.A’s “100 Miles and Runnin’.”
“Life of Crime” by The Spits—By 2004 or so, I was actually kinda over music in general. Still always had to have it in the car or at work, but my record buying dwindled to a mere trickle, especially compared to what it once was. That all changed when a buddy of mine turned me on to The Spits, out of Seattle by way of Kalamazoo. The best way to describe The Spits is if the Ramones and Devo got married and had these bastards. This song off their 2009 fourth self-titled LP (none of their albums have actual titles, though this one is colloquially known as “The Yearbook Album” or “School’s Out”) is by far their best song, perfectly combining the snotty harmonies of early punk with the fuzz-and-bang of the ‘90s garage revival. Also, a fun fact: “A Life of Crime” was actually my first choice for the name of the site now known as Criminal Complex in honor of this little ditty. Alas, someone owned that domain name. Hope you’re enjoying it, you bastards!
And that’s about it. I know this is a short list, but since the average police chase only lasts five and a half minutes, you’ll be lucky to get through even half of these. Of course, if you live as close to Mexico as I do, five and a half minutes should be all you need to get across the border, if you’re driving is right and the wind is with you. Then you can switch over to Mexican AM talk-radio for your trek down to South America. Buena suerte!