Audiophilia, Thoughts

I Can’t Quit You: Merril Bainbridge

Not so long ago, when I was younger & had fewer CDs, sometimes I went through phases where I would listen to my entire CD collection.  I would start alphabetically & go for weeks, however long it took to get to the end. I did this for a couple of reasons. First, rearranging & getting all the discs in order helped my general nervous nature. Second, the ulterior motive was to weed out the ones I rarely listened to, mainly because I only had one room to myself & space was at a premium.

Finally, it was my own little ritual of listening to those CDs that were often neglected. Everyone has the core of their collection: groupings that not only include your favorite music but the songs you want to hear all the time because you like the idea of your life having its own personal soundtrack. Inevitably, though, I’d often stumble across those CDs that I rarely listened to, yet for whatever reason couldn’t get rid of. They weren’t CDs I was saving for a particular mood or rainy day. They were discs I had bought because there was a hit on the radio or out of a sense of loyalty to a band.

At the time, I thought, Well, every collection has its oddballs & missteps. Fast forward to today, where those CDs still aren’t listened to, space in my house is quickly becoming a premium & I’m willing to relax my past standards because the hybrid state of my music collection (on discs & on my computer) isn’t so easily categorized anymore. Time to move on.

(All of this comes as great news to my husband, who recently said, “Borders didn’t close, they just moved to your study & implemented an insane shelving system.” Like a good little American consumer, I own a lot of media product.)

So, I thought it would be fun to blog about these sad little cast-off CDs as I give them one last listen before sending them on their way. I’ve included the list here & we’ll see how far I get before I get sick of this, much like my aborted Summer of Drew project.

Before this post gets too long, I thought I’d start with the first (& probably oldest) of the I-Can’t-Quit-You CDs: Merril Bainbridge’s In the Garden. There is one reason only why I owned this album & that is the song “Mouth.” This song was every-fricking-where during my early years of high school. When I listened to the CD again, I remembered why the song was so popular. It’s a simple little song that’s playful without being childish & coy without being a cocktease. Seriously: “When I kiss your mouth, I want to taste it/Turn you upside down, don’t want to waste it.” Any song about oral sex that my conservative mom can still enjoy on pop radio amuses me to no end. I think it’s the calliope-sounding piano that fools you into thinking “Mouth” is an innocent little tune.

The rest of the songs on In the Garden are perfectly good, listener-friendly tunes. There’s a thoughtful cover of “Being Boring” & her song “Under the Water” has the same flirty/weird mood as “Mouth.” Bainbridge has a whole girl-in-a-fairtrade-coffeehouse vibe & she can sing & play guitar well. I think one of the reasons I did keep the CD for so long was I perhaps hoped she would make friends with the other girls with guitars in my collection: Melanie Doane, Holly McNarland and Carrie Newcomer. Unfortunately, compared to these other artists, I can’t find much in Bainbridge’s music that stands out. The accent instruments, like the fiddle or piano, don’t have the same punch as they do in Melanie Doane’s songs. Bainbridge isn’t like Holly McNarland, who’ll snarl her songs at you until you’re intimidated into liking her. Carrie Newcomer might make you nervous with her talk of God’s love, but she can write a more interesting lyric.

So with a bit of what-could-have-been wistfulness, I’m parting company with In the Garden. I think it would have been interesting to see what Merril Bainbridge could have done in a band or if she had a little more edge to her songs. But, how many of us can say they had a hit that defined the 90’s music landscape?