The Whole World Wants To Know

“Our Tune” by The Dolly Mixture

This is my favorite song in the world right now, with an emphasis on “right now”. The stupidly obvious meaning of life is whatever song you’re preoccupied with at any given moment.

As evidenced by the title, it’s a song about another sort of song, “Our Tune”, i.e. the replayable bit of bliss which becomes hopelessly entangled with a relationship at some formative moment and so stands as a neat signifier of that connection and all the possibilities it may engender; more specifically, it’s about that song after the fact, when it becomes a nexus of association too weighty to bear and you can hear the excitement and the disappointment it eventually led to within a single instant, as is the casual power of a pop song.

It’s quick and bare bones, two minutes and twenty-one seconds about being stuck in that groove. That’s the whole of it – an easy and relatively expansive verse, abetted in its momentum by cooing harmonies and a bright ascending guitar, that trails off into a chorus which feels like a rut, everything disappearing except flat inexpressive vocals against a stark rhythm section circling around in an uncertain stalemate. Repeat.

Lyrically, it sticks to that arc of descent, distantly at first, with the path of a relationship – infatuation and heartbreak – safely filtered by a second-person POV. It stands as a depiction of breaking up rather than a straight-up break up song; if you’re looking for a more appropriate weep-into-the-shot-glass song of that sort, with enough in the way of accusations and human messiness to latch onto and direct at whoever last did you wrong, you’re better off with “Now When I Count”, another Dolly Mixture song from around the same period. Heartbreak is, as ever, a helluva muse.

Which isn’t to say that it’s all detachment. At about the 1:15 mark, the song, having passed the checkpoint of the first chorus, swells to a wondrous height, a quick crest before crashing back and returning to it, while the lyrics assume a sudden first person voice – present tense, immediate – to make a very brief statement of pain and helplessness. The rest of the song could be seen as a buffer for this moment, the distance all throughout allowing a safe place where you can give full vent to vulnerability, make explicit what’s implicit.

It’s a very simple gesture in a very simple song and it’s what keeps me coming back.

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