Simon and Garfunkel – ‘The Sound of Silence’
From Radiohead to Ludacris, here are some of the best songs for easing your journey to work each morning. Kicking us off are Simon and Garfunkel, who sing: “The words of the prophets were written on the subway walls!” Presumably graffiti in NYC is more profound than the “get your titz out” messages scrawled on the walls at Elephant and Castle.
Arcade Fire – ‘No Cars Go’
“I know a place where no cars go,” goes Arcade Fire’s fan favourite. Presumably the Canadians have experienced M25 traffic on a Monday morning, then. Luckily, this track’s jubilant enough to keep your spirits up during rush hour gridlock horror.
Kraftwerk – ‘Autobahn’
There’s no speed limit on Germany’s ‘autobahn’ motorways, making ‘Autobahn’ a fitting title for Kraftwerk’s fast, mechanical kraut rock on their seminal 1974 album. This title track is 22 minutes long: ideal for daydreaming to as traffic trickles along on our own slower roads en route to work.
Pulp – ‘Mile End’
Jarvis Cocker pays tribute to a stop off the beaten track on London’s Central Line in this Pulp song. “It’s a mess alright, yes it’s Mile End,” he croons on the track, which was made famous by the Trainspotting soundtrack, complaining about “cars set on fire” in the nearby playing fields. At least there’s good transport links, though.
A$AP Rocky – ‘1Train’
Awfully good of the Harlem rapper to pen a song about the exact number of TFL services that run on time a year (kidding, obvs). With a blockbuster string hook and guest spots from Kendrick Lamar, Action Bronson and Danny Brown, the cream of modern rap, it’s pretty much hip-hop’s Avengers Assemble.
Weezer – ‘Surf Wax America’
“You take your car to work, I’ll take my board, and when you’re out of fuel I’m still afloat,” sings Rivers Cuomo on this ‘Blue Album’ classic about the merits of commuting to work via surfboard. Which is all very well till you turn up to your office covered in murky gunk from where you stacked it in Basingstoke canal trying out his advice.
The Jam – ‘Going Underground’
Alright, so there’s no lyrics about topping up your Oyster card, but Paul Weller’s 1980 Number 1 could just as well be about a hellish trip on the Northern Line. Which rush hour travellers in the capital will tell you can be a real jam (badum tish).
Flaming Lips – ‘Mr Ambulance Driver’
Imagine being an ambulance driver. Sure, it’s a high pressure job where you stand between life and death but hey, at least you never get stuck in morning traffic. This Wayne Coyne and co. cut is every bit as cool as you’d expect from the world’s premier psychedelic specialists.
Radiohead – ‘Killer Cars’
Maybe it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the environmentally minded Thom Yorke thinks cars are dangerous. This ‘The Bends’ standout can soothe even the most harrowing of commutes.
Crushed Beaks – ‘Breakdown’
London two-piece Crushed Beaks’ recent single isn’t about National Rail trains grinding to a halt, meaning you’re going to miss that meeting and ensuring you a bollocking from your boss. But a glance at singer Matthew Poile’s lyric sheet suggests it could be: “I don’t want to break down, break down.”
Fiona Apple – ‘Fast as you Can’
‘Fast as you Can’ finds Fiona Apple teetering on the edge of insanity, roaring: “fast as you can, baby run free yourself of me”. It’s so free-spirited you’ll want to get out of your car mid-traffic jam, leaving it in gridlock as you run for freedom.
Kanye West – ‘All of the Lights’
All of the lights. Break lights, in the case of commuter drivers. With help from Rihanna, whacking Kanye’s 2010 smash on the stereo while in gridlock will put the “jam” into traffic jam.
Dirty Three ft. Cat Power – ‘Great Waves’
If commuting via boat was possible, this Dirty Three track would be first on the stereo on the SS NME: a maritime-themed ode to love on the high seas, featuring the soulful husky vocal talents of Cat Power.
Nas – ‘The World Is Yours’
The sound of a Brooklyn subway train runs throughout Nas’s classic ‘Illmatic’. Listen to this album favourite aboard your commuter train and you’ll forget where your world ends and the New Yorker’s begins.
PJ Harvey – ‘M Bike’
Of course, you could also cut down your commute time by weaving through morning traffic on a motorbike – the subject of this 1993 PJ Harvey effort. Polly’s that enamoured by Harley Davidsons and the like though, singing about being neglected by a man who lavishes more attention on his bike than on her: “I fucking hate his motor bike”.
Sonic Youth – ‘Pacific Coast Highway’
A fast and furious driving anthem, ‘Pacific Coast Highway’ is music to roar down a road at 120mph to with the windows down and speakers up. Not that you’ll be doing any of that stuck in commuter traffic, but hey, with Sonic Youth’s help you can imagine.
Jimi Hendrix – ‘Crosstown Traffic’
“Crosstown traffic, all you do is slow me down and I’m tryin’ to get on the other side of town,” laments the Seattle hero on 1968’s ‘The Electric Ladyland’. We know the feeling, Jimi, we know it well.
The Smiths – ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’
“And if a double decker bus crashes into us, to die by your side, what a heavenly way to die.” Morrissey there with a somewhat pessimistic view of Britain’s bus drivers’ road safety skills. C’mon Stephen, they’re not that bad.
Mogwai – ‘Glasgow Mega Snake’
Commuting often means waking up early, dragging yourself out of bed at an ungodly hour to brave the horrors of public transport. Listening to this explosive 2006 cut from post-rock kings Mogwai is the early morning equivalent of a hospital defibrillator charge to the chest. Forget your daily train station coffee in a Styrofoam cup – this’ll really wake you up.
The Walkmen – ‘The Rat’
You’re apparently never more than 2m away from a rat at any given time on the London Underground. So next time you’re on the tube, here’s a fun game: listen to this Walkmen anthem and have a think about the furry, disease-ridden scavengers scurrying around you and time how long it takes you to freak out.
Bright Eyes – ‘Travelling Song’
Conor Obert’s rootsy paean to the joys are getting about is exactly the sort of irrepressibly upbeat vibes you need for an early morning scuffle through crowds on the tube. You’ll be running up and down the escalators at Bank before you know it.
Ludicris – ‘Move Bitch’
Alright, so it’s not exactly the language we’d use, but US emcee Ludicris knows where it’s at when it comes to being stuck behind a dawdling tourist staring into a tube map as we try to make it to work on time. MOVE!
Led Zeppelin, ‘Trampled Under Foot’
As song titles go, what captures the violent surges and hustle ‘n’ bustle of 8 o’clock on the Central Line better than Zeppelin’s ‘Trampled Under Foot’? It’s every man for themselves down there, guys.
Boards of Canada – ‘Jacquard Causeway’
Stuck on a broken down train, crushed against sniffling strangers as a city slicker gurns into their mobile about “next weekend with the lads”? Canadian ambient maestros Boards of Canada should take the edge off. ‘Jacquard Causeway’ from this year’s surprise comeback album ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ is a shot of musical Vicodin to calm commuter rage.
Cocteau Twins – ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’
Also gloriously anesthetising is this from ‘80s pop dreamers the Cocteau Twins, whose ethereal wash of sounds are perfect for drowning out the rowing passengers and honking traffic of your bus to work.
Fugazi – ‘Small Pox Champion’
Small, packed train carriages are breeding ground for colds and flu. So while the woman opposite you coughs and splutters germs in your direction, let Ian Mackaye and co meditate on sickness and health. Might need to crank up the volume to hear those grinding guitars over the woman opposite’s heaving lungs, however.
Deftones – ‘Be Quiet and Drive’
Stuck in a jam, going out of your mind with frustration as traffic refuses to budge? Deftones singer Chino Moreno has just the thing: five minutes of scorching guitars, clattering rock drums and chilling screams about wanting to get out and get out fast.
Catatonia – ‘Road Rage’
A ‘90s radio hit that puts an indie-pop sheen on violence on the roads, singer Cerys Matthews sounds like she’s had her share of blood-boiling arguments with fellow commuter drivers. Or maybe it’s an analogy for a relationship stuck in first gear driving her crazy. Either way: TUNE.
Jai Paul – ‘Crush’
‘Crush’, originally by Jennifer Paige, is about teenage lust. Its title could easily apply to being on the tube stuffed up against strangers. Jai Paul’s version, featured on his leaked ‘album’ from last year (a collection of songs were uploaded to Bandcamp that the secretive artist denies were a finished album) puts a sultry R&B twist on the pop smash.