SPOILER: ‘Hey Jealousy’ is number one. I could have argued for one of the other singles, or been perverse and picked one of the many other killer songs in their catalogue, but that’s not what this is. In fact, if you don’t know the band past this song and that other one, you will probably cling to three or five new favourites here and begin to believe one of these should have actually been number one, and then email me about it. Don’t fret, this is part of the process. Soon this feeling – like many feelings – will fade and you will be left with cruel, cold analysis and boring old logic and you will see that Hey Jealousy is the best. It just is. And that’s not necessarily a statement restricted to Gin Blossoms songs, or even ’90s songs or (GASP) ‘one ht wonders’, or even Songs Where The Cops Chase You Around (But You Let Them). If you are new to this band, I sincerely hope you find a bunch of music you like.
Also, ‘New Miserable Experience’ and ‘Congratulations, I’m Sorry’ are two of the greatest album titles ever, so props on that. I don’t know how you can see a record with either of those titles and not want to immediately listen to it.
20. Idiot Summer
Firstly, great song title. Secondly, the two songs Gin Blossoms wrote exclusively for soundtracks were for ‘Wayne’s World 2’ and ‘Empire Records’ which is batting 1000 as far as I am concerned. This was for WWII (and yeah, I’m using that abbreviation) and is one of singer Robin Wilson’s finest songwriting outings. He combines this with a more mongrel-ly vocal delivery than on their album recordings, biting down brilliantly on a lot of the lines. A+ (All the songs on this list get an A+)
“This night never happened, if it’s alright with you” is a common reaction to the twin sins of lust and pints-at-schooners-prices, yet morning-after regret seems to be under-represented in the pantheon of pop. “I was nowhere near last night”, vocalist Robin Wilson argues, and it sounds so convincing you’ll begin to believe him.
18. Angels Tonight
I would like to know if they had heard Daryl Braithwaite’s ‘Rise’ prior to writing this, because all the musical parts seem to have been directly lifted from it. Hang on, which predates which? “I had a girl I thought was mine, but I wised up man, just in time” is a great line, although it’s nothing compared to, “as we collide as the lights go out, there’s someone else she thinks about” – which is fairly heartbreaking. This song should have been higher in the list.
“You can’t call it cheatin’, if she reminds me of you” is perhaps the greatest terrible excuse ever, and the kind of people that either offer this up or accept it post-transgression deserve to find each other and live blissful, unaware lives together. That’s not an insult. The chorus is obviously meant as a joke, but the heartbroken country tune it is wrapped in is serious – and seriously great. (Okay, it’s not 100% serious)
16. My Car
Dripping with the type of nostalgia triggered by driving past your old school with only the company of the cool night air, and a pack of cigarettes. “Thinking back on things I’ve done, I can’t forget the stupid ones – it seems I do my best by accident” will be a familiar notion to anyone who ever feels autopiloted through life.
15. Mrs Rita
“Why do lovers come and go?” is a ridiculous thing to ask a palm reader, although it makes for an interesting song premise. The protagonist details years of “swimming in a bottle”, admits his “lover’s will is shaken” and details a new resolve to keep busy with “my books and with my tapes” – all in service of asking the horrendously under-qualifed Mrs. Rita if his girl is coming back. She probably isn’t.
14. Blue Eyes Bleeding
A mock-country tune with an insatiable shuffle, some nice harmonies and the joyous plead, “Are you coming home for Christmas, c’mon pretty please.”
13. As Long As It Matters
As close as the band ever got to Idol-worthy, Garth Brooks-flirting, AAA balladry, rescued from this fate by the tasteful harmonies, the slide into the chorus, and the fact that neither Santana nor Slash was ever in the lineup.
12. Til I Hear It From You
The band’s only song to feature in a Gen X-baiting film where the staff members of a suburban record store spontaneously burst into dance every five minutes. Co-written by pop genius Marshall Crenshaw for some reason. This was a massive hit for the band, although they chose not to include it on their album because Rex Manning day.
11. I Can’t Figure You Out
Just a great pop song, with a killer chorus and some good advice: never trust a guy with a nervous laugh. Not surprisingly, this is another song about struggling with alcohol by a band literally named after the capillaries that burst in one’s nose after excessive drinking.
10. Keli Richards
Named after a porn star main songwriter Doug Hopkins fell in fake-love with, and such a sugary sweet pop tune that the meaning could easily slip by. Keli Richards, c’mon!
One of the most tender tracks in the band’s canon, and home to the forever line, “When my lies may seem less than clever is when I fall for it.” Props for writing a song with ‘wishing wells’ in the chorus without it being a) lame b) fiercely unpoetic or c) From Snow White.
8. Lost Horizons
The opening track to their major label debut kicks you in the face/dick instantly, and takes about 1.3 seconds to convince you this album might be more than ‘Hey Jealousy and others.’ I once stole the second verse lyrics in a university creative writing class which forced us to read/sit through undergraduate poetry, just to see how the tutor reacted. He repeated the line, “I stood there, grateful for the lie” a few times (irony?) before adding, “I like that.” I reprised this theft a few years later at a bullshit slam poetry reading thing at the This Is Not Art festival – back when you could do such things.
7. Perfectly Still
Maybe the best straight-up chorus in the Gin Blossoms’ canon, with a steady, stripped back verse, and a pre-chorus that propels like a car being driven around a town while the cops chase it around.
Actually, scratch that previous entry – this is the best chorus in the Gin-canon. Oddly enough, both these songs appear on ‘Congratulations, I’m Sorry’ which doesn’t feature their original – and best – songwriter Doug Hopkins.
5. Follow You Down
This song still gets blasted with almost-Hey-Jealousy-like frequency on stations that go ad, ad, ad, ad, Kings of Leon, RHCP, ad, ad, ad, and it’s easy to see (hear?) why. Basically, it’s a perfect mid-’90s power pop gem, with ringing guitars, a joyous chorus, and the line, “Let’s not do the wrong thing and I swear it might be fun.”
4. Allison Road
“I didn’t know I was lost at the time” is another one of those situations that should really occupy more space in the songwriting annals of history (located second row from the back, near the old VHS tapes of ‘The Late Show’). The benefit of hindsight is rarely of benefit at all, especially when it’s mainly a mixture of useless regret and the overconfidence to believe those days are over.
3. Found Out About You
A darkly-obsessed song: half stalker anthem, half lovelorn breakup song, and the last recorded instance of someone admitting on tape to listening to AM radio in the car. “Is there a line that I could write, sad enough to make you cry” is the last-ditch gasp of a guy who still believes he can poem his way back into a girl’s heart. (Spoiler: of course you can’t!)
2. Pieces Of The Night
On those rare days when you are sick of ‘Hey Jealousy’ (everyone has them, although it’s wise not to admit this), ‘Pieces Of The Night’ is the very best song in this band’s catalogue. It’s just so defeated and sad and hopeless, which is the over-riding appeal of the Gin Blossoms and their fucked up, weary, alcoholic world-view. Unfortunately, this was far from an affectation, with the song’s writer Doug Hopkins killing himself just as the band – which he had been fired from during the recording of the album for alcoholism – were starting to find success with the singles he penned.
1. Hey Jealousy
Every line of this song is a masterstroke. Top three? Sure thing. In reverse order? Here we go.
3) If I hadn’t blown the whole thing years ago, I might be here with you
2) Cause all I really want is to be with you, feeling like I matter too. (There’s always a caveat)
1) If you don’t expect too much from me, you might not be let down (Setting realistic expectations)
It’s the best. Enjoy!
BONUS – Back Of A Car
One of the best – if not the best Big Star covers (sorry Elliott, sorry Wilco, sorry You Am I, sorry Lemonheads).