‘Transit,’ Richard Shindell

by JAY LUSTIG
shindell

The cover of Richard Shindell’s 2000 album, “Somewhere Near Paterson.”

A surrealistic balladĀ about a literally apocalyptic traffic jam? You know it has to be set in New Jersey.Ā “Transit,” from singer-songwriter Richard Shindell’s 2000 album “Somewhere Near Paterson,” is a rush hour epic set on the New Jersey highway system.

In the opening verse, when Shindell calls the merge from the Turnpike “murder” and says the drivers were “touchy as hell,” you just know this won’t end well. “Somewhere near Paterson, everything slowed to a crawl,” he sings, even more ominously.

Everyone is “bobbing and weaving, flashing their highbeams/Flipping the bird, screaming obscenities.”Ā And in some of mass insanity, the drivers caught in the traffic jam allĀ miss their exits and end up plunging into the Delaware Water Gap. “Was it some kind of vortex?” Shindell asks.

But then his attention shifts, back to the nun who was casually mentioned changing a tire in the secondĀ verse. She didn’t get back on the Highway to Hell, but made her way to a state penitentiary, where she sang with her choir (“With the interstate whining way off in the distance”).

This is as beatific as scene as the earlier portion of the song was horrifying. “TheyĀ poured out theirĀ their souls … they poured out their hopes for what’s left of eternity,” Shindell sings, with the music intensifying.

And there you have it: Jersey heaven and Jersey hell, both vividly depicted in the course of aĀ six-minute song.

New Jersey celebratedĀ its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we markedĀ the occasion by posting 350 songs ā€” one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 ā€” that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, clickĀ here.

2 comments

Kara Swisher November 13, 2014 - 10:47 am

here’s a suggestion. the artist is Chris Rockwell. song is Lavalette Business District. it’s about the small shore towns in the off season. hope you enjoy! =) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=echkGuUp2_A

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njartsdaily@gmail.com November 13, 2014 - 11:01 am

Thanks. Will check it out.

Reply

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