. . .
During the two-year period in between Bakesale and its follow-up, 1996’s Harmacy, Lou Barlow had a hit single. Not with Sebadoh, of course, but rather, his side project Folk Implosion inexplicably hit the top 30 with “Natural One,” — from the soundtrack of a film that could never get made today, Kids — which was slightly funky and groovy, but I never could hear the mass appeal of it.
And maybe that was why Harmacy was the most fussed-over Sebadoh record yet. I mean, by indie standards, of course: they were never going to be Massive Attack or Madonna. Luckily, Barlow was still writing high-quality songs, like “On Fire,” “Ocean,” and the utterly gorgeous ballad, “Willing to Wait,” which is on the short list of Prettiest Songs Ever Recorded, Gimme Indie Rock Division.
“Willing to Wait” opens with just a quietly strummed guitar from Barlow, sympathetic bass from Jason Lowenstein and a slow straightforward beat from Bob Fay.
When you see him again, tell him everything that you told me
Tell him that I’m still your friend
And maybe you would like to see me again
With Barlow singing in his usual preternaturally calm voice, “Willing to Wait” navigates a lovely pre-chorus in which they all stop and start on each line, forcing you to pay attention to the words.
I’m willing to wait my turn to be with you
But I still have a lot to learn about me
And no one’s sure if we should be together
And then Barlow reaches the very top of his range, voice nearly breaking, as he reaches for the loveliest chorus he will ever write, the gorgeousness of the whole thing being supported and conveyed by a mellotron floating in the background.
But ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, when I saw you again
A beautiful friend, she opened up her heart and let me in
No, I cannot lie to you
I’m still in love with you and I only wanna be with you
I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that Barlow wrote “Willing to Wait” to and for his (now-ex) wife, Kathleen Bilius back before they were married — but I’ll be damned if I can find it now. But that would explain the directness of the lyrics, which pull zero punches.
So when you see him again, tell him everything that you told me
We’re more than friends
And maybe we should start again
Maybe you could love me again
And while all of this gorgeous directness worked in Barlow’s personal life, it didn’t really get anywhere with the mass audience that theoretically were there after the success of “Natural One.” Despite the video for “Willing To Wait” getting some airplay, the single didn’t go anywhere and the fact Harmacy made it as high as #126 on the Billboard albums chart could probably be attributed to the relative success of “Ocean,” which did well on modern rock radio.
“Willing to Wait” official music video
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