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Sat, 23 Feb 2008

Rain Yr Hand

This song appears on Rainer Maria's eponymous E.P. ("Rainer Maria") from 1997. You can read the lyrics or download the song. As always, I urge you to do both.

For what it's worth, R.E.M. made fun of this term "eponymous" by naming a collection of theirs literally, Eponymous.

I'm going to take a step away from formula for today's entry because my life has been so busy with schoolwork at the end of the semester and I'm doing this blog as much for me as for any of you readers (-:. It will be interesting when work has real time boundaries (9 to 5, or more like 10 to 6) rather than school's ability to leak into my whole day and pervade my waking and sleeping moments. These blog entries are just getting longer, but that's fine with me. (-:

This song isn't one of my favorites, but for this Rainer Maria A Day it's crucial to revisit some of Rainer Maria's earlier catalog. Rainer Maria is widely-cited as beginning when the two singers met at a poetry workshop while in college, and this E.P. from 9 years ago is the earliest work I have of theirs. Maybe I'm just a kid who wants easy-to-listen-to pop rather than the screaming and distortion and dissonance of their early work. Songs like this are difficult to explain to parents or friends, so maybe I just avoided them so I could more easily defend my love for Rainer Maria. Rainer Maria was something of a secret love of mine, and that definitely contributed to my tenderness for their music.

Even with all the distortion, songs on this E.P. like "Made in Secret" and our main topic, "Rain Yr Hand," show the versatility of the band. Listen to how the end of "Made in Secret" has a totally different feel, a softness appropriate for the closing line, "This is a secret I haven't told to anyone." "Portland" finishes quietly, too; this young and proud, Rainer Maria doesn't feel forced to fill the space with music. "Rain Yr Hand", too, opens gentle.

The lyrics to this song (as with most of the album) are hard to understand, much harder than in their 1999-and-after work. (Recall that the 1999 album A Better Version of Me was my introduction to Rainer Maria.) Here, they're either screaming, whispering, or mumbling, it seems. I would say Rainer Maria is very unlikely to play anything from this album at a show. Listen to how this song uses sharp twists on the guitar (unless that really is Caithlin screaming...?) at the end of instrumental interludes to let the style change between verses. When your most recent work has packed-with-sound songs like "Catastrophe" and songs with poppy crescendos and tempo shifts like "Burn," I don't think the new audience would be expecting any of this. And maybe the band members themselves feel they've moved on to more exciting pastures, too. When you consider richness of sound from Caithlin and the music from Kyle's guitar in more recent work, it's as if they learned to sing and play respectively, after all. But I appreciate that in this album, half the songs are under three minutes, and they stop not abruptly but because simply because the songs succeeded at imparting a feeling.

This summer, while an intern at Creative Commons, I missed out on more than a few events because I wasn't 21 (yet; I now am). "All-ages shows" indeed.

The words aren't vague; they set a scene where we understand the feeling being communicated. The quiet introduction is appropriate for talking about deep, easily-mockable processes like identity formation. To quote a Witness Theatre play I saw recently (that I recently quoted when I felt I wasn't being taken seriously enough), "I'm being vulnerable!". You might would wonder about the tree fallen across the highway, but Rainer Maria songs are more about sharing a feeling as they are about inspiring thought. They've never been about inspiring action. Maybe Bad Religion's capacity at the latter is what made the two of them such a powerful combination when I first discovered them.

As I alluded to yesterday, you get to hear Kyle in his most singing-y mode around 2:30, and you can hear both him and Caithlin near-screaming at different parts. So much of what I read of the band watches Kyle's voice fade away as the band becomes more polished. In 1997, they don't mind distorting the final chord.

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