Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Gin Blossoms -- "Til I Hear It From You" (1995)

Every once in a while, a truly great power pop song actually does make the charts, somehow breaking through whatever the musical fad is of those times. And that song is so good, it defies whatever obstacles may surround it.

By the time the soundtrack to this film came out, the Arizona-originated Gin Blossoms already had a head of steam from their happily titled New Miserable Experience. That album had three FM radio favorites -- "Alison Road," "Found Out About You" and "Hey Jealousy." While the grunge movement was in full swing, these guys lightened it up with jangling electric guitars, sweet harmonies, and the emotional swagger of lead singer Robin Wilson.

The Gin Blossoms had the luck of contributing "Til I Hear It From You," co-written with singer/songwriter ace Marshall Crenshaw, on the soundtrack of Empire Records, a movie that opened dead on arrival. As a matter of fact, I don't even remember it opening at all in the New York area. It was notable for featuring babe-on-the-rise Liv Tyler, and directed by Alan Moyle, who had also done the same duties for the 1990 cult Christian Slater pirate radio/teen flick "Pump Up The Volume." Empire Records was the last of a dying breed, the "teens rebel against the big corporate giant and finally win" film. Yet, one of my former employees once told me this was her favorite film.

While the Empire Records soundtrack had the usual mix of name artists (Evan Dando, Better Than Ezra) and no names (The Ape Hangers? The Cruel Sea?), "Til I Hear It From You" burst out so hard and fast that when it was announced it was from the soundtrack of Empire Records, people probably asked "What movie was that?"

When you bring along Marshall Crenshaw to be your co-writer, you know you're upping the songwriting ante. As great a songwriter as he is, nobody would ever confuse him for pop songwriting machine Diane Warren. This song may have been Crenshaw's highest-charting success as a songwriter.

"Til I Hear It From You" was the Byrds reborn, more of those jangling guitars in a G-Em-Bm-D pattern and a straightforward catchy chorus based on the simple C and D chords. These guys were going for nothing less than the motherlode hit, doing the old pop trick of repeating that melody hook again and again and again. Even the instrumental break had the guitars playing the chorus melody line note for note behind an erupting marching snare drum volcano. And at the end, layered harmonies over and over that descending G chord pattern in the chorus.

Looking back, you'd have to say wow, what a miracle that a song like this crashed through the charts at all. Grunge still had rock and roll on the public's mind, and they sure did like it with their pop hooks (see Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life"), before it all gave way to boy bands, rap and hip-hop.

Bizarro band note: I thought I heard singer Robin Wilson say he now lives in Valley Stream, Long Island?

Here's the international non-Empire Records video of the Gin Blossoms'"Til I Hear It From You."

1 comment:

MrBlue said...

What a great hook this song has. I remember being in my teens and getting goosebumps from the empire records soundtrack... The Gin Blossoms in particular...

Till I hear it from yooooooouuu...

Great harmonies, great lyrics, great track...

And great post!