Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Track Attack- "Can't Seem To Make You Mine" (The Seeds)

(Welcome to "Track Attack", where each Tuesday a "new" song will be reviewed. Anything is fair-game for this feature, from 50s rockabilly to 70s disco and 90s shoegaze or 2000s freak-folk. Week 2 of the feature is tackling the emotionally raw garage-rock classic "Can't Seem to Make You Mine" by the Seeds.)   

At the risk of sounding clich├ęd, unrequited love is awful. Songs from "Layla" to "Creep" and "Tiny Vessels" have taught us having a constant one-sided conversation can be frustrating and downright draining. While the concept is all-too-common in modern music, in the 1960s with rock less than a decade old it was a relatively alien idea. Elvis' outstretched hand in "Can't Help Falling in Love" you'd bet anything it wouldn't go unaccompanied. Buddy Holly's waiting would dissipate given enough days. Of all the 50s rock progenitors, only Roy Orbison seemed destined to be in eternal waiting. 

That said, even the most pained moments of Orbison's waiting can't compare to the Seeds' 1966 gut-wrencher  "Can't Seem to Make You Mine". From Sky Saxon's first yelp "I can't seem to make you mine" atop a wavering guitar line, you know something is wrong. The drums and bass plot a straight course, but Saxon veers in every direction; trying everything he knows. He's helpless, begging for love while acknowledging the four-letter word can only "fill my heart with misery." Two central "tenets" of unrequited love are over-idealization and romanticization. Speaking from personal experience, when you're in an "unrequited relationship" there's a tendency to treat the other person as a savior or more than human. The love you have glosses over their own faults.

In Saxon's case, he's willing to forgive any pain he's had to bear for the potential joy a relationship would afford. Instead of the guitar's shakiness, all Saxon hears is the lilting piano in the bridge. That sashaying comes to a standstill soon enough when he's desperately pleading "come back." Few moments in popular music are as heart-rending as that plea. Wonderfully reductionist, it offers proof that in the real world our declarations of love rarely go according to plan. We stumble or say the complete opposite of what we intended. We don't always get what we want. 


If you have suggestions for songs to be featured in future reviews of Track Attack, feel free to leave them in the comment section.

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