I come to work in the city everyday from where I live in New Brunswick, New Jersey. That's an hour and 40 minute commute, door-to-door, if everything goes right. That's a ride to the train station, then catching the notoriously treacherous and unreliable NJ Transit. Then walking a couple blocks and hopping on the subway, which drops me off right at the office. It's a hassle, but those are the breaks.
My success, getting to work on time, is dependent on so many factors—the timing of all these different modes of transportation—that are out of my hands. The music I listen to is really the only thing I can control. I usually choose something to gop with my demeanor, something to boost or reduce adrenaline or stress. But sometimes I just want to remove myself from the process of thought or the embrace of mood completely, and transport myself far away from the stench of the overpopulated train car. And for that, this morning, I turned to my home state heroes in Funkadelic, and the title track from their 1971 album, "Maggotbrain," a song that takes you through an eerie, winding, cerebral tunnel—one, coincidentally, much like my trip to work.
The song's intro, voiced by George Clinton, is an ominous poem that lets you know wherever you were at before pressing play is not where you're at now. ("I have tasted the maggots in the mind of the universe/I was not offended/For I knew I had to rise above it all...") And definitely not where you will be by the end of the song's 10 minute run-time. (Seems like people must have been so much more patient in the early '70s. Maybe 'cause of all the drugs.)
Composed almost solely of Eddie Hazel's mind-melting guitar play, the song grabs a hold of you, and pull you deeper-and-deeper into the audio landscape. (Eventually, you feel like the woman on the album cover, buried up to your neck in the earth.) With multiple tracks of guitar layered atop one another, the song rises and falls to heights and depths that feel inhuman, and I end up locked in my seat, only slightly aware that I've twisted my mouth and scrunched my nose and eyebrows into a struggle face representative of my inability to capture everything I'm hearing at once. My fellow commuters tend not to take the seat the next to me.
This is good. I mean, this is the kind of song I need to be listening to by myself. Not like turn-of-the-lights-in-my-room-so-that-all-I-can-see-is-the-glow-of-my-phone's-empty-Twitter-DM-inbox by myself. Just, without interruption. By the time Hazel's searing, desperate string-bendings go mute, I realize that I'm much further along in my trip than I'd thought. And, kind of tripping off of the audio dope I was just served. It's a great way to clear out the cob webs, and get my mind off the monotony of the commute. It gets me ready for the rest of the day.
Then the song ends the train goes back to smelling like shit again. I gotta get a place in the city.