My brother and I are geniuses, obviously, which explains why we didn’t realize that our rental car had XM radio until, oh, two days into our trip. Clearly, we were distracted from this discovery by our other rigorous intellectual pursuits. Or, maybe, we’re just that clueless.
Either way, the discovery delighted us. One of my favorite memories with my brother is tooling around Providence in a Zipcar, back when they had XM radio, and surfing through the various stations. We stumbled across some sort of public information channel, which was full of unintentionally hilarious items that left us cracking up. This time around, we quickly found our favorite stations — 1st Wave (new wave), Boneyard (metal), Lithium (grunge/90s), Classic Rewind, Classic Vinyl, Underground Garage, 90s on 9 and 80s on 8. Occasionally, we found something on the Loft, Spectrum, Alt Nation or Coffeehouse, but believe it or not, Sirius XM U was a bit too hip for even us to bear.
All was well for the first couple of days. But by midweek, we noticed something that surprised us. I think we had expected satellite radio to be some haven of repeat-free playlists, where DJs took advantage of practically infinite archives within their genres to craft programs that were unique and diverse. But by the 8th time of hearing New Order’s “True Faith” on 1st wave and our 50th Stone Temple Pilots song on Lithium, we sensed something was amiss.
Apparently, while satellite radio has the benefit of allowing you to hone in on stations that focus on your favorite genres — thus rescuing you from an adult contemporary wasteland that can cruelly juxtapose a pretty good Guster song with something wretch-worthy by Kenny Loggins — within those stations, the same unfortunate rotations seem to apply. This doesn’t make sense to me for a station like 1st Wave, which could easily find other New Order songs to play or bust out something by Depeche Mode other than “Enjoy the Silence.” By the end of our trip, we’d be turning the dial away from songs we had previously been excited to hear not three days previously, because we’d already heard them ten times.
Still, I really enjoyed having XM Radio on our roadtrip. It helped diffuse any potential iPod wars by presenting a highly desirable alternative, and we had a lot of fun mishearing song lyrics, hearing new songs, singing along to old favorites and generally talking about what is a passion for both of us. For my brother and I, music is a huge common thread, so we particularly enjoyed having something over which we could share our enjoyment — and our mockery.
Of note: I was in a store Saturday and they started playing New Order’s “True Faith.” I didn’t know whether to feel nostalgic or like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day.”