The train sucks.Â Thereâ€™s a reason nobody rides trains anymore.Â They are awful, life-wasting machines with no other purpose than to be less effective than airplanes.
That being said, I ride the Coast Starlight train every other weekend.Â Since I must have pissed off any number of deities throughout my life, one of them seemed vengeful enough to kill my beloved Subaru, Ellen.Â A blown head gasket and cracked cylinder rod exiled me to the land of the transportationally challenged: the Amtrak station.
One thing I have learned from repeatedly subjecting myself to insomnia-on-rails is that sleep is an unattainable lie.Â This means I had to figure out something to do for ten straight hours in order to avoid going insane.
I canâ€™t read books since the train rattles worse than the meager change in my piggy bank, and I donâ€™t have any more movies to watch, so I decided upon a musical voyage through the annals of rock and roll.Â I decided to listen to the entire discography of my favorite band in the world, all at once, with no breaks.
I went into the trip down the coast with four out of five of the studio albums released by System Of A Down.Â To say that I am a System fan would be a bit of an understatement, particularly since I own the CDs as well as the mp3s.
I started off with my all time favorite System album, â€œMezmerize,â€ and settled in for the ride.
The haunting melody of â€œSoldier Side â€“ Introâ€ readied me for what was sure to be a better ride than usual.Â â€œB.Y.O.B.â€ and â€œRevengaâ€ rocked me stupid while I got used to the fact that I was stuck on theÂ train for the next eternity.
The rest of the album was so fantastic that I decided to listen to it again after I had finished my first run-through.Â And then again.Â And again after that.Â â€œMezmerizeâ€ is just soâ€¦mesmerizing.Â It alternates between hard and soft so seamlessly that the listener is enraptured for hours.Â I think I listened to â€œMezmerizeâ€ six times before I switched over to â€œHypnotize.â€
Released in 2005, six months after â€œMezmerize,â€ â€œHypnotizeâ€ was designed to compliment the previous album as part of a double-album.Â In my opinion, â€œHypnotizeâ€ isnâ€™t quite as good as â€œMezmerize,â€ but thatâ€™s like saying â€œKill Bill Vol. IIâ€ isnâ€™t quite as good as â€œKill Bill Vol. I.â€Â Theyâ€™re both masterpieces of musical mastery.
â€œAttackâ€ dove straight into the face melting and I was once again lost in the auditory overload.Â I have to say that â€œHypnotizeâ€ and â€œUâ€“Figâ€ are my favorite tracks on that album, and I listened to them more than a couple times in a row.Â After three cycles of the entire album, plus the replays, I switched over to the bandâ€™s eponymous debut album.
â€œSystem Of A Down,â€ the first album of the band, is a rough listen.Â Iâ€™m not saying itâ€™s bad.Â Goodness no.Â Itâ€™s just meant to be one hell of an experience.Â Itâ€™s in your face, loud, and emotionally charged.Â Shy away if you canâ€™t stand the sound of truth being screamed into your ears.
After pumping that album into my head flaps three times, it was time for â€œToxicityâ€ – probably the most commercially recognized album by System.Â It was released three years after the first album in 2001, to a fan base clamoring for more.Â Everybody knows the songs â€œChop Sueyâ€ and â€œToxicity,â€ and if you donâ€™t, youâ€™ve most likely been attacked by a yeti and now have amnesia, which would explain why you canâ€™t remember them.
Even though â€œToxicityâ€ is not my favorite album by System, I could probably listen to it forever.Â And ever.Â So three cycles later, I was there.Â I had arrived in Martinez, California.Â It was about time to get off that damn train.
Now wait a minute sir, you might be saying. You forgot â€œSteal This Album!â€Â No I didnâ€™t.Â I didnâ€™t own it at the time.
Now skip forward 36 hours, and Iâ€™m back on the train, clutching the CD jewel case for â€œSteal This Album!â€ to my chest.Â I had finally found the elusive record hiding in the back of Rasputin Music, my favorite music store in the world.Â Yeah, suck that Amoeba Music.Â It was a dream come true.Â The final piece to my musical jigsaw.Â Oh boy, was I excited.
â€œSteal This Album!â€ was released in 2002, and it was rumored to be a compilation of B-sides and outtakes, but the rumors were wrong.Â It was a full-fledged studio record imbued with all the power and intensity that System fans had become accustomed to.Â Even though it did not overtake â€œMezmerizeâ€ for my favorite System album of all time, it took me the whole train ride back up the coast to come to this decision.Â I listened to â€œSteal This Album!â€ more than 12 times in a row.
Eventually I found my way back to Ashland to collapse into my extra-long twin and sleep for a couple years.Â It was while I was drifting off to sleep that I realized I had learned a very valuable lesson from my musical trek through history: Life is kind of like a train ride; weâ€™re all here because we have to be, so youâ€™d better listen to some good music along the way or else you die unfulfilled and bitter.
I guess I should start steeling myself for the ride back down the coast a fortnight from now.