Last night my friend Thor Garcia came by with a case of Gambrinus and a few musical surprises. Thor is a musical connoisseur, and his knowledge of All Things Rock is both deep and wide.

While it may seem to regular readers of this blog that I only listen to what my friend Simon refers to as “the blippy stuff,” I love all kinds of music, from dechovka all the way out to avant-garde opera. There are certain bands, though, that for me are cultural touchstones, mainly owing to where I grew up.

Journey is one of those bands. Hailing from San Francisco, California, their song “Lights” is one of the prettiest love letters to San Francisco that’s ever been written. Every time I fly back home, and the plane does that long, lazy arc around the Golden Gate Bridge, down to Half Moon Bay, over the Silicon Valley, up the Peninsula and into SFO, that’s the song that sticks in my mind.

I like to think I was a punk in college, and loved to make fun of Corporate Rock bands like Journey, but the fact was simple: there are at least ten songs by Journey that I know by heart.

So last night, when Thor was playing DJ and had already played the excellent “Four Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty Six Seconds: A Short Cut To Teenage Fanclub,” he completely floored me when he pulled out the Journey box set.

I guess that some things really do get better with time and distance, because I really enjoyed listening to their trademark soaring guitar solos, almost-operatic vocals and dramatic shifts from quiet to loud – the kind of stuff really is best served up to packed stadiums.

I hadn’t listened to Journey for years, but this time around I really appreciated their attention to craft: musicians who really know how to play, backing a singer who really knew how to sing.

Don’t get me wrong – I still love electronic beats, especially those electronic beats with a Latin flavor. But it’s always good to get carried away by stuff you rarely hear.

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