Friday, May 18, 2018

Favorite Song Friday: Into Your Arms

I confess, the Lemonheads never really did it for me.

Even at the height of the alt-rock explosion in the early 1990s, which was right at the time they entered the mainstream with so many others, I just didn't feel that connection with them. I liked a few of their songs, sure (as may be obvious right now, given the title of this post), but the connection I felt to Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Sonic Youth? Nope, just wasn't there.

Hell, I felt more attached to the Gin Blossoms and Jayhawks and Smashing Pumpkins than I did to this Boston-based trio. Not to mention some other bands I truly dug (and still do) like Toad the Wet Sprocket and Counting Crows. The Lemonheads just didn't ring my bell the way others did.

It may have been the fact that Head Lemonhead (LemonHead?) Evan Dando annoyed the hell out of me. Much the way that Chris Martin's antics have always gotten in the way of Coldplay's music for me, Dando's slacker cum pretty boy poseur lean (fair or unfair) just made me say, "Yeah. No. Not for me." Despite the fact that he sang well and created some damn melodic music.

But his look seemed more like that, a look. Nowhere near as honest as the hard, tortured realism of Kurt Cobain or the detached introspection of Chris Cornell or the guarded, seething rage of Eddie Vedder (although granted, Eddie's act grew tired within a few years, though fortunately he changed his tune and today seems to personify veteran rock-n-roll cool). Dando's pose struck me as unearned; again, right or wrong. And it turned me off.

I've softened since. I'm older! And I've come to really appreciate the loose, dreamy breeze of a lot of what the Lemonheads did. And never moreso than today's entry for Favorite Song Friday.

Favorite Song Friday - The Lemonheads - Into Your Arms

I've said it before about other songs and I'll say it again. This is perfect pop. Period.

From the opening rake of that simple D/D major chord bounce, "Into Your Arms" is so damn listenable it almost seems to have been manufactured in a lab. It's pretty much I-IV-V all the way from there, save for the stopover at E minor which lends a nice little gentle edge to it. But everything works without tricks and, surprisingly, without pretensions or any overplay. It's just a plaintive, simple love song played out over plaintive, simple chords.

I know a place where I can go
And be alone
Into your arms, into your arms I can go

I know a place that's safe and warm
From the crowd
Into your arms, into your arms I can go

And if I should fall
I know that I won't be alone anymore

Dassit, baby. Two verses repeated twice each. One bridge repeated twice, Maybe 25 words total in the whole song? You don't need to rewrite Beethoven's 9th to produce essential and lovely pop rock. Hell, you don't even have to rewrite "Hey Jude." If you're gonna go simple, you stay simple. That's "Into Your Arms."

Dando's voice is a perfect instrument to meet this song's lonely and heart-on-sleeve plea. He sounds like he's leaning over his last drink at the bar, telling the girl next to him that he doesn't want much, only to be able to feel safe with her. His voice is weary and tested, but it jumps to profoundly powerful when he hits the end of the bridge ("...won't alone anyMORE.") He takes his time to get his thoughts out and when he does, he doesn't say much. But just like the unbending, jangly chord pattern, it's all he needs. His agency is earned in this song by never veering from the path.

And when it's done, it's done. The song almost sounds like a windup toy running down at the end as it just slowly, faithfully grinds into silence.

I don't love the Lemonheads, probably never will. But I love this song. Because the band knew all along what it was and what it wasn't. And let it exist as the sweet slice of poppy goodness it was meant to be.

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