This song is a strange mix of elements. The drum pulses in the beginning, but it sounds distant – almost like it was recorded in a stairwell then the recording was pushed through a delay pedal. The drums repeat the same pattern, measure by measure for the rest of the song. It has a monotonous feel to it.
After the drums start the song, there are punctuated hits from a guitar (which also sounds like it is on a delay) and what I think may be a synthesizer. The bass jumps in and it rumbles. The bass is what moves this song forward. The grumbling low notes on the bass (ba-ba-ba) jump up an octave (BA-BA-BA-BA) on each measure makes if feel like the song stops and then lurches forward over and over.
Deep in the mix, there is an acoustic guitar track playing chords. That is the most that we will get with guitars filling out the rhythm on this song. All of the guitar energy is focused on two lead parts. The most prominent lead part has a clear tone and plays a drawn out, lonely melody. The second lead part is distorted and condensed. It plays those punctuated hits every four measures and occasionally plays a counterpoint part to the primary lead part.
Since this is designated as the first space song, my mind automatically went to “2nd. Space Song” which, ironically, I knew before “Wherever You Go (First Space Song)”. “2nd. Space Song” always sounded like outer space to me. I know, it’s not particularly imaginative. But I could envision Space Ghost chilling out to those fuzzed out guitars back in the mid-90s when that kind of sound was the thing everybody wanted (including former superheroes turned galactic talk show hosts). I thought I would hear outer space in this song too; it was where my brain expected me to go. But I cannot hear outer space in this song. I hear another kind of space entirely.
This is a driving song, and I don’t mean that in the way people normally mean that. This isn’t just a song that has a good pace for driving. I mean that this song is sonically mimicking the experience of driving a vehicle. Now I may really be shooting myself in the foot by making this song about driving when I still have the write-up the “Prepare to Detour” left to do for this album. But I go wherever the songs take me so here we are.
The whole song sounds like it was recorded in an aluminum can. The stuttering drums are the sound of the reflection panels embedded in the pavement smacking against your tires in their own rhythm. The bass line is the rumbling drivetrain stopping, then going through red lights in midtown traffic. That primary lead part is really what seals the deal with this interpretation for me. It’s drawn out and lonely in the same way that you feel when you’ve been driving all day, all alone, in your own space watching trees, buildings and signs continually slide out of your view as you push forward.
But just as this lead guitar isn’t alone in this song, we are not truly alone. There’s always people in the cars around you, close but separated. Outside of some potential hand gestures or honking horns, you can’t communicate with them. But they are still there sharing space with you for a little while.
Do you ever think about people in cars next to you? Do you think about where they are going or what their lives are like? I do. I wonder if they have families or what they like to read. In times when I need to pass some petty judgment on some fool who doesn’t know how to drive, I imagine what horrible bands they might listen to based on what kind of car they drive and what they are wearing. Many a’fool has been labeled as a Creed fan while driving perpetually in the left lane on interstates and wearing those weird, plastic sunglasses with the elongated, reflective lens (you know the guys I’m talking about, right?).
There’s been a lot more time for this specific brand of contemplation in 2020 since everything is curbside. Now I don’t just pass these people on the road; now we are stuck in the same parking lot in each other’s space for God knows how long and there’s a lot more time to think about all these things. Not just wondering about the old dude in the truck three parking spaces to your left, but to think about what it means to be stuck alone or to be stuck in the same space with the same people for so long that you could just pull your hair out over it.
We just came through the holiday season where many of us had to settle for celebrating alone or in small groups. It’s not an easy adjustment to make. And this just caps off an entire year of trying to figure out how to be close to others but still yet separate, wherever we go.
Now we are rolling into a New Year’s Eve that many of us will spend alone – not going out to bars to listen to bands, not going to a friend’s party, not celebrating as we want to at the end of a year that has been so horrendously difficult for so many of us.
And it’s lonely. Just like that lead guitar is lonely. But just like this song keeps moving, we can keep moving. This song is a reminder that there is still life and meaning to be found in these moments when we are stuck within our own spaces. There’s still something to say even when, like this song, you aren’t using words to say it. And there’s always, always, always still more places to go.
Happy New Year, my friends.