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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 154
Tues. July 2, 2013

“Like the Weather”
10,000 Maniacs

1987

“♫ Color
of the
sky as
far as
I can
see is
cold
grey
♫”

Although, I was raised deep in the heart of Texas and I’ve lived through the dirty humid days in the dirty South but these past few sweltering days in So Cal have been the hottest I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was so hot that the weather almost ruined our meeting up with my little brother. After this horribly blistering weekend, and waking up this morning to overcast skies, I had this Natalie Merchant penned alternative pop hit on my head.

You may have noticed the sense of contrast between Natalie’s at times brooding vocals and the buoyant beats that the Maniacs bring to the songs. Merchant talked about this dichotomy with the L.A. Times when she explained, “There is a darker side to the band that never had been completely, thoroughly shown. It was something that had to be in a way exorcised and then we could go on to something else. On ‘In My Tribe,’ there was that separation of lyrics going in one direction and the music going in another direction, one being very jovial and the other one being in some points very violent, other points very melancholy. I wanted to bring them together.”

If you were wondering how Natalie composes songs like “Like the Weather,” Merchant explained her songwriting process when she said, “I need to be completely alone when I write. Writing is a strange, tortuous experience. It frustrates me, and I’m best when I’m frustrated. I’m also best when I’m isolated–to a point that I’m so alone I’m talking to myself. That’s why there’s some dark themes and stuff about loneliness in some of my songs. I can write music with other people around, but to write lyrics I need to be isolated. I like being miles from the nearest town or store–the nearest anything.”

Unlike most of the more serious songs from the Maniacs’ 1987 seminal album, Merchant described the buoyant meaning of In My Tribe’s most popular songs when she Natalie told The Performing Songwriter in 1996, “Like the Weather is a silly song about – I remember I wrote that on a Farfisa organ so it had sort of a silly origin. It’s just about not wanting to get up out of bed because it’s raining.”

“Like The Weather” feels like the perfect anti-pop song. We connect with Merchant sense of longing for a brighter day; When I hear “Weather” I can actually picture Natalie sitting by the window just wanting the weather to lighten her mood. We’ve all been there in the car, at home or in the office—Merchant’s songwriting has a personal ring where we connect with Natalie’s sense of longing for calmer skies.
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It’s the same lyrical gift from “Like The Weather” that made Natalie the critical and commercial darling of the nineties. In 1989, Merchant describing her role as a songwriter to the L.A. Times, Natalie said, “Well, people have always been affected by music, even if it’s just on an unspoken emotional level. It’s a start to write music that inspires people to maybe think or feel something about the world around them, and that’s definitely where my strength is. Everyone has a role, and this is mine. And maybe it won’t always be writing lyrics of this content. Maybe it will just be bringing people happiness through music.” The 10,000 Maniacs may have gone extinct but, seriously, where have you gone Natalie Merchant? Natalie is still making music; her last album, 2010’s Leave Your Sleep was inspired by her six year old daughter.

Still many Merchant fans miss those Maniac days of “Like the Weather.” We can relive the alterna-pop magic of those days by spinning songs from In My Tribe. For most of us in So-Cal, our long hot summer has already begun. Let’s hope with the help from Natalie Merchant and her 10,000 Maniacs, we can cool off today with those jovial overcast sounds of “Like The Weather.”

And we can’t forget the 10,000 Maniacs’ 1993’s unplugged performance of “Like the Weather”:

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