Saturday, November 03, 2007

"Let My Love Open the Door" / Sondre Lerche

Yeah, yeah, I know Pete Townshend wrote this song. The trouble is, Pete Townshend's version is too bouncy, careless and confident -- there isn't a bit of pleading to it. I've always felt this song should be a whole lot more desperate and plaintive.

Last night, watching the movie Dan In Real Life, I finally heard the song the right way. It's a pivotal scene in the movie -- Steve Carell is accompanying his brother (played by Dane Cook) while singing this song, and the heartsick Carell slows it down and sings it so yearningly, it wins over Juliette Binoche. Carell's version is adorable; even better is this recording by Sondre Lerche, the Norwegian wunderkind who performed most of the film's brilliant soundtrack. Mark this up with Once and The Darjeeling Limited as three recent movie soundtracks that turn good movies into genius movies.

I knew nothing about Lerche, but I went straight home and listened to loads of his stuff, and I adore it. He totally gets the value of a spare arrangement -- Pete Townshend should take lessons from this kid. On "Let My Love Open the Door," behind Lerche's warm, endearing tenor he gradually layers in an acoustic guitar, then a cello, then the full string quartet, and finally a burst of handclaps. It builds, sure, but it never gets overblown.

It helps that Lerche's voice still has a trace of adolescent quiver and squawk -- it gives this song urgency, as well as sweetness and sensitivity. The old hackneyed truths about love still seem fresh to him -- "When people keep repeating / That you'll never fall in love / When everybody keeps retreating / But you can't seem to get enough / Let my love open the door." Repeating that phrase, as if hammering on a literal door, he allows just a little yelp on "open", matched by a heart-melting vocal crack on "To your heart."

I'm here to tell you, no woman is won over by a man who claims to have ALL the answers. Pete Townshend sounded like he thought he had all the answers; Sondre Lerche sounds like he doesn't even know that there are questions. In verse two, the line "I'll give you a four-leaf clover" always made me think Townshend was scraping for a rhyme to "all over"; Sondre Lerche delivers it so innocently, I can envision him picking the damn clover. He barges through all the song's wild claims -- "I have the only key to your heart, / I can stop you falling apart", "It's all I'm living for," "Only one thing's gonna set you free / That's my love" -- and I actually buy it. Not that I believe he'll deliver, but it's just so sweet that he thinks he can.

He even has the sense to hush and slow down the final verse: "When tragedy befalls you / Don't let them bring you down / Love can cure your problem / You're so lucky I'm around." (Another winsome crack as his voice rises to "I'm around".) He's just figured out that there is tragedy in life; it still sobers him up. But not for long -- love will find a way to fix everything. And at least for two minutes and twenty-seven seconds, I'm willing to believe it too.

Let My Love Open The Door sample

1 comment:

Julie said...

Nice version. Is it okay to like Pete's too?