|Day 166: Modern English (I Melt With You)
July 21, 2022
Recently I was involved in a conversation about whether we should be pessimistic or optimistic about the future. Someone I know, respect, and love very much said that he remained optimistic, this despite his own litanies regarding the current state of the world, as well as that we stood on mostly opposite sides of the political spectrum. I inferred, among other things, that he knew the future's often looked bleak throughout history and that humans inevitably fight through it to get to a better place. As a passionate believer that history repeats itself, I so wanted to agree. However, at least for me, hitting 60 and seeing the systematic and institutional breakdown of common belief and morality (especially as I try to envision a better future for my 23-year old son), each day the glass gets emptier, let alone stays half full.
I am not an "end-of-days" kind of guy. History has shown me that societies fall, dark ages come and go, and the world goes on. However, even that kind of "the-world-I-built-for-you-is-going" mentality makes it difficult to provide hope to younger generations. Maybe my great, great, great grandson (assuming the lineage continues) survives to see the "other side," whatever it will be.
Being a borderline hippie, I hope that love continues to be the great savior of the human race. Love, as it exists between two people, can keep the human race going, as well as how love exists more broadly across humankind and the world. Love is the great equalizer to tyranny, chaos, conflict, and entropy. For me, the afterlife is a giant melding of neurons, love infinite.
I know, "geez, Fleming, way to go with the long, pretentious set-up for Modern English's "I Melt With You." Consider it the LP version or the Foreplay (Boston or not) lead-in version. The payoff is worth it. Slow down and bear with me (so to speak).
The song reminds us that fears for the end of the world have always existed. We can't get off before the end of the world, but we can get off at the end of the world (jeez, did I really just write that?).
Lyrically "I Melt With You" is such a delightful merge of sex and Armageddon (as if that comparison would ever be said as such). First off, is there any better come-on line than "I made a pilgrimage to save this human race"? Honestly, what lover wouldn't melt at the polymorphism of a religious/biological/genealogical justification to screw? Who's gonna send that pilgrim packing?
Against the backdrop of a simple, but striking, guitar riff, rollicking backbeat, and subtle keyboards, the lyrics lick at us like a lover's tongue: "Moving forward using all my breath," linking oxygen depleted from carbon dioxide with the activity and exertion of love-making; while "I saw the world thrashing all around your face" ties the little death of orgasm with the fiery collapse of our world. All of this before the end of the first stanza.
For the record, most references to "I Melt With You" talk about the famous humming on the bridge: "the future's open wide/hmm hmm hmm/hmm hmm hmm," but I argue that completely misses the mark. That isn't humming, that is murmuring "mmm, mmm, mmm" in the way that lovers do, especially given the song has slowed down to just a heartbeat of a bass, lovers catching their breath mid-paroxysm. Mmm, mmm, mmm, yeah!
If the world is going to end, how do we want to face it?
Morrissey gets mopey about it: "In the seaside town/that they forgot to bomb/come, come, come nuclear bomb" ("Everyday Is Like Sunday"). Why be sad in our last moments?
REM turns journalists: "Lock him in uniform, book burning, bloodletting/Every motive escalate, automotive incinerate" ("It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"). Why are we writing this all down? The human race isn't going to survive.
And of course Prince parties: "We could all die any day/but before I'll let that happen/I'll dance my life away" ("1999"). Time is precious, Prince, honey, you of all people should know we need to get to the love-making.
Only Modern English encourages us to get immediately between the sheets and melt into the gooey convergence of love that is life after death. Talk about something that will make me go "mmm, mmm, mmm."
Modern English. "I Melt With You." After The Snow. 4AD. 1982. Link here.
Day 165: Amy Winehouse "Back To Black"
Day 167: Richard Hell & The Voidoids "Blank Generation"
Unfinished list here.