Several people have emailed me about the Roy Montgomery track I played on my last WFMU fill-in, so that seemed like reason enough to throw a bit of special attention on it here. It's called "2LB", and it comes from an excellent compilation called You Can Never Go Fast Enough.
YCNGFE is a tribute album, of sorts, to the film Two Lane Blacktop—the frequently lauded 1971 road movie starring James Taylor (of all people) as a sullen, degenerate gearhead and Dennis Wilson as his similarly dour companion. The film has been a 3-AM-on-PBS favorite forever, and Criterion finally issued a deluxe edition of it on DVD in 2007, which is when the compilation—the Roy Montgomery track inparticular—was flung back to the tip of my consciousness.
Rather than including covers of songs that appeared in the movie, You Can Never Go Fast Enough features artists performing songs inspired by it. With heavy hitters like Sonic Youth, Wilco, and Calexico on board, the film is obviously one whose particular cinematic rhythm has resonated with a variety of underground kingpins. Yet on none of the tracks does its sheer loneliness and cynicism come through as it does in Roy Montgomery's contribution: the twelve and a half minute guitar dirge that is the focal point of this post. It's a classic example of how aural repetition can quickly establish a pattern, transform into an endurance test, and then morph yet again into pure revelation without any observable change in the sonics. (See Moondog's "Invocation" for more on this technique.) If you've seen Two Lane Blacktop, Montgomery's homage is sure to summon up its many scenes of aimless desperation. Listen using the player below.
Afterthoughts: Two Lane Blacktop is a lasting testament to the notion that America is something that can only be understood through exploration and experience; that its true story can only be told by the strangers and everymen who populate its most forgotten corridors. Once a popular theme in American literature, film, and music, this idea seems to be quickly fading from prominence in our culture. Am I wrong? Are there current examples that I'm just not thinking of?