Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself after airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.
Blind Melon – “No Rain”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #1 on Modern Rock Chart, September 1993; #20 in October 1993.
As much – as strenuously in spots – as I try to expound on the flaws of these songs I despise, I occasionally bump into a “No Rain,” for which no explanation is reasonable. Every note is objectionable, every lyric an incitement. But I started this post minutes before Anthony Kennedy delivered in person his statement announcing his retirement from the Supreme Court, after which I listened to “No Rain” in my office, alone, again and understood its adherence to a stoner’s concentration on the snail slime on the wall. Focusing on ephemeral shit is a way of tuning out.
Maybe that’s what made “No Rain” such a massive MTV hit in late ’93 and early ’94. Its embrace of imbecility would not have alarmed the character in Edie Brickell and New Bohemians’ “What I Am” half a decade earlier, and in the case of “No Rain” the gap between character and singer seems, ah, narrower than in the 1989 hit. But the video put the song over: the one with the girl in the bee costume and the band dressed disgracefully like the hippies of John Mitchell’s wettest dreams while playing in a field of long grass.
Over strummed acoustic chords that fans of America’s “A Horse with No Name” would have adored, singer Shannon Hoon embraces a pantheism that would not have made D. Boon of the Minutemen recoil but is far more traditional. Before this day and hour “all I can do is just pour some tea for two/And speak my point of view but it’s not sane” reads as rank post-post-hippie bullshit. On one level it still is. “All I can do”? Protest, motherfucker. Stakes was high, to quote De La Soul, in 1992-1993, as much as they are now. What matters musically is a song tough enough to support the self-absorption or, failing this, defending the speaking of a point of view by, you know, delineating the point of view worth defending.
As those pretty melodies chime, it’s hard to know what Blind Melon stand for. The we’re-just-flower-kids-bro point of view made Hoon’s band an irritation at the time. While I can’t blame Blind Melon for what they couldn’t predict — the 1994 GOP takeover, Bill Clintons fan dance with the right, the horrors of the last nine years — I blame them for espousing a detachment that no one who has a life on the line in the American system would take for granted, and at the same time sounding fucking dull while doing so.