Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Turn It Up, Man.

Since the moment you learned how to drive you probably learned how to fix the stereo just the way you like it. You figured out how to turn it up real loud and vibrate the rear view mirror and “shock” your neighbors. You found the correct combination of bass and treble so that the speakers don’t sound like they are popping or crackling with every beat. Maybe you changed the whole stereo system altogether to make it more awesome and make it go to eleven. You may have even mistakenly thought that this instantly made you cool and bad-assed. Most people ridicule the ghetto blasters that pass by. But, not all vehicular loud music will be ridiculed and warrant pedestrians and other drivers to say:

“Look at this fucking guy.”

If you follow my strict guidelines, then through the proper use of the vehicular sound system, you can achieve the title of Mysterioso-Skary, Über and/or Hella Cool, Rebel Yella’, Fun Lovin’ Baller, Chillaxor, Breezy to tha’ Mo’ Fo’ Shee-Zee, All Pimpin’ N’Shit, iPoderrific, Exxxtreme, For Reals, Awesome to the Max, Sooo Metal Dude like Sooo Freakin’ Metal, Fuckin’ Core, OMG’ed, PWNzORz, !!!WOOT!!! or any of the other eighty-seven recognized forms of Badditude. The pedestrians and other drivers will revere, respect and maybe even fear you. The very first thing, that you must always remember, is that the driver is in charge of the music by default, and will be held responsible for the vehicle's musical status. So, if you let one of your passengers handle the stereo, be sure that they can be trusted to not tarnish and destroy your rep or street cred. It would indeed suck if someone dissed or shafted you, or to be called a poser.

I will go through several very general and vague categories of music and explain the whens and wheres of playing them at high volume in your ride. I won’t mention band names, so that this guide may remain as timeless and unbiased as possible, and so that you can judge for yourself what fits into each category. If you come across music which doesn’t fit into any of the below mentioned categories or that fits into many categories, then pick the rules that you feel best apply to that particular piece of music.

One general rule: if you drive a DeLorean, you can only listen to Huey Lewis and The News. This is the only band name that I will mention, I promise.

Another general rule: before I get into the musical categories, I need to touch base on singing along. The sing-along is always acceptable, but only if you are not stopped at any traffic lights, if you know all of the words for the part you are attempting to sing and, most importantly, only if no one can actually see or hear you. Violating this rule gives onlookers the right to ridicule and honk. If there are multiple people in the vehicle, the Sing-Along is only permitted if everyone can and does sing along. No one likes a showboat.

Final general rule: if you have been pulled over by Highway or even Regular Police, do not have any music on. Humming a tune is also frowned upon.

Now, let’s get into the categories.

Rap and Hip Hop is probably the most saturated category of music in the world of blisteringly loud vehicle output. You will look like a real phoney unless you adhere to the following rules. This type of music may only be played in vehicles with completely tinted windows, including the windshield, and that have either a bad muffler, or one that is purposefully and obnoxiously loud. If your vehicle does not meet these requirements, then you may only blast this type of music on Saturday or Sunday mornings, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Outside of these hours, you will look like a complete jackass, no matter how many people are crammed into your vehicle.

‘60s and ‘70s era of Funk, R&B and Soul should always be turned up past the fifty percent mark on your vehicular stereo. While blasting this type of music, you should avoid highways and always take the back roads, even if it takes a little longer. The only time it is permitted to have the volume lower than the fifty percent mark is if you are engaging in some form of make-out session or sexual activity inside your vehicle, at which point, you should lower it to enable yourself to hear the approaching pedestrians or police sirens. More modern and later era R&B should follow the same guidelines as those designated for Rap and Hip Hop.

All forms of Islands music or Caribbean music, especially partying music, must always be played at high volume, but only in convertible vehicles, or vehicles that can’t fit in regular sized parking spots, due to their excessive width or length. This includes RVs or vehicles towing something else like a boat. Come to think of it, apply all these same Island rules to any upbeat music that uses bongos.

Techno and any other forms of Ambient Electronic Dance or Lounge music may be used any time, but can only be played full tilt if you own a Honda sedan or hatchback. In rare cases, certain models of Acura will be accepted as well. The more modifications made to the vehicle, the more useless junk added onto it, and the more random accessories found all over it, the louder you are permitted to play your music, and the faster you are allowed to drive. Fast and, dare I say, furious.

Pop Groups, Boy Bands, Children’s Albums and Television or Film Soundtracks popular among the Tweens and Teens may be played loud only in Mini-Vans and mid-size SUVs, and only during regular work or school hours. There should be a small to medium sized dog of some kind in the vehicle, and having the windows open will gain you extra street cred. You must drive no faster than the posted speed limits and even, if possible, up to ten kilometers below them. If you are on a road with more than one lane, be in the rightmost lane, but hover slightly into the lane to your left from time to time. Stick your hand out the window sometimes to signal people to "go around" you.

Pop-Punk, most “Alt” rock from the ‘90s up until today and all this new “Emo” music the kids are talking about can only be blasted in your vehicle if you are currently looking for a spot in a mall parking lot, or are driving past a hilarious wacky and funny t-shirt store. If you break this rule, pedestrians have the right to throw eggs and yogurt at you.

Heavy Metal, Death Metal, Black Metal, Power Metal, Metal Core, Grind Core, Thrash, Goth, Doom and the like (pretty much all things dark, metal or scary) should only be played at high volume starting at the summer solstice, and ending at winter solstice. The day on which you blast the music must be a darker day than the preceding day. Otherwise it would be a grave misuse of your metal library, and may cause your four tires to blow out simultaneously. Certain Progressive Rock albums may also fall into this category if the subject matter is gloomy enough, however, remember, never turn off the engine if you are only half-way through any concept album. You must stay seated in your parked vehicle until the album finishes. Disregard these rules for all Pick-up Trucks, SUVs and Mini-Vans. These vehicles are never permitted to play these types of music loudly.

Really Underground Rock and Punk from the ‘80s-‘90s or up until today, early Punk stuff, early or even later Hardcore stuff, most Underground Garage bands, or your favorite local act that no one has ever heard of may be sonically exploded out of your speakers and towards the public at any hour, any day, and any time of the year. The only catch is that your windows must be fully open. If you can’t handle this in the winter, then you’d best wait until the spring, or grow a pair. This type of musical announcing will be most appreciated in the urban scenester environment, but may also gain you approval in certain suburbanite milieus. If you have a bumper sticker of a band on your vehicle, you may never play their music in your vehicle, no matter the volume. This is similar to the “don’t wear the shirt of the band you’re going to see” rule, uttered by Jeremy Piven to Jon Favreau in the ‘90s campus cult classic PCU.

Classic rock from the ‘60s or ‘70s can be turned to the max for highway driving only and, please take note, that the use of the vehicle's Air Conditioning is forbidden. If you are warm and sweaty, you may open your windows. Singing along is highly encouraged, but if your windows are open, be ready for potential bug swallowing. Popular music from the ‘80s and ‘90s can be played full blast only if the band playing turned out to be a “One Hit Wonder”, and you have turned off the vehicle's Heat. Let the ‘80s and ’90s easy cheesy charm and heat warm you up.

Modern Country music, or New Country, should never be played in any vehicle, at any time, at any volume. It is important to follow this guideline, and I should remind you that, in certain extreme cases, playing New Country too loudly, while driving, has caused vehicles to suddenly explode. The same rule applies for most New Age or “World” music, except that if played too loudly, the driver themselves may explode, rather than the vehicle. Older Country music, as well as very early Rock'n'Roll and RockaBilly is acceptable at any volume but only if driving a Pick-Up truck and only if you are driving in the Wild West, otherwise the pedestrians around you may explode. It is up to you to figure out if you are not in the Wild West. You can do so by watching for exploding pedestrians.

Soft Rock, or “Sunday Music”, can be played only at medium or low volume, and never on Sundays. Be careful not to turn it up too much since, in certain extreme cases, Soft Rock played at high volume has caused vehicles and their drivers to slowly melt into a big ol' mellow mushy pile.

The Blues can only be played loud if you're driving the vehicle off of a cliff.

Jazz can be played loud whenever, by whomever, and in any type of vehicle, but only if the driver of the vehicle has written a ten page essay explaining why this particular album or song or artist is genius.

Talk radio, Comedy albums, Lounge Singer Acts or Novelty bands may never be played loudly and should only be listened to at a reasonable volume. You may laugh as loud as you wish at any time. You should do so with your windows closed. However, if you are stuck in traffic, you may open the windows and raise the volume slightly. While we are on the subject of traffic, music may never be played at full volume in a traffic jam, no matter the category.

During any leap year, on February 29th or during the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics, you are permitted to completely assault everyone with horrifyingly loud Classical Music. Outside of these two events, you may never turn up the volume on Classical Music beyond ten percent of the vehicle’s maximum volume.

If your vehicle only has a Cassette player, you still must apply all of the above rules, but you are permitted to yell at other drivers to get out of your way. You forfeit this right if you hook up an MP3 or CD player with one of those nifty tape adaptors. If you don’t even have Cassette capability, and all you have is an AM/FM radio, then you still must follow the rules, however you are allowed to ask pedestrians for change. This does not apply to rental trucks.

If your vehicle is more than twenty years old, then absolutely none of the above rules apply. You get a free pass and are permitted to play any music as loud as you see fit anytime and anywhere, and can even sing along with the windows open, and all of this at a crowded red traffic light. You can make your own rules. Just try and remember that if the vehicle is old and beat up enough, turning up the radio too loud may cause the brakes to fail or the hood to fly off.

Sometimes it's good to leave the stereo off and enjoy the sounds of the highway. Let yourself drift away into the gumdrop dreams and memories of simpler times, as you slowly fall asleep, hypnotized by the serene repetition of the dotted lines, only to be woken up and startled by the loud lawnmower noise of the shoulder grooves, and your wife screaming.

Scream. Swerve. Radio on. Volume up. Sing along.

That’s it. I think you're ready for the road test.

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