Blind Melon

Blind Melon

1992: Capitol CDP 0777 7 96585 2 7

  1. Soak the Sin
  2. Tones of Home
  3. I Wonder
  4. Paper Scratcher
  5. Dear Ol’ Dad
  6. Change
  7. No Rain
  8. Deserted
  9. Sleepyhouse
  10. Holyman
  11. Seed to a Tree
  12. Drive
  13. Time

I enjoy listening to “Dear Ol’ Dad” and “Tones of Home,” but fundamentally I have this album in my music library because of the flawed gem which is “No Rain.” In March 2012 I was asked by a friend why I responded so strongly to this track, because I mentioned that even now I only play it when I feel up to a good cry, and this was my assessment:

It is one of those rare encapsulations of a moment, for starters, that was purely subjective: for me, it’s 1992 in Seattle…a difficult time of transition and privation and stress, all of it too current at the time to have any sense of value or significance in perspective.

The sound of the song is important to me because this was a time when Grunge was becoming omnipresent—all that darkness and all those heavy minor chords, far too much weight and dirt being layered on by far too little actual content (with this, Alice In Chains, and the blazing glory of Jane’s Addiction being the exceptions I was aware of at the time). By contrast to that stuff, even though this was still inherently dark and drug-driven, it shone from within somehow. Its minor-chord sound dominates but it’s actually in a major key (which I suppose if I were to put that in color terms would be “it looks blue but it’s actually full of golden yellows,” which is also a way to describe Van Gogh’s paintings). It constantly rocks back and forth between major and minor, giving an unsettling and uncertain feeling without being unpleasant.

Lyrically it’s neurotic but not necessarily pessimistic. Vocally it sounds almost falsetto but actually isn’t (even I can sing it, albeit at the top of my range, where it doesn’t sound at all the same, in the same way that I can sing bass melodies and not sound like a bass singer). The pacing is obviously consistent and slightly swinging, slightly folksy, and it all sounds like it just happened (until you focus on it). And the moments where the song pauses and lets droplets fall onto the surface of the water and leave silent ripples, well, those are hypnotic because something about the sound of the song makes me long for that glimpse of internal attention.

Add to all that the video, which really is a killer even though it has all that stupid footage of the band in the field. The kernel of it is supreme: freak finds her tribe, in a way that makes the old Ugly Duckling fairy-tale look intensely lame by comparison. Without getting too personal, I’ll just say that I totally relate to that Bee Girl except that she got payoff and I didn’t. Haven’t. Whatever.

All of this catapults me back to those days when the song was new (it still sounds new, which is also impressive to me) and puts my 45-year-old self next to my 25-year-old self, facing the same days but with a lot more information, and I find I’m standing there crying because I can’t have done anything different and would still be effectively where I am today had I made what different choices were makeable then with the means I had.

Upshot: it’s a bittersweet song which on the whole is actually somewhat positive even though it wears melancholic colors, but for me it’s almost traumatic while still beautiful.