Thursday, 5 May 2016
No Apologies For The Infinite Radness 1.1.11 - "Raining In Baltimore" (Counting Crows)
If there was ever going to be an act to appear twice in this first, none-more-wallowing-in-whiteboy-misery chapter (and this will be the only one) it was always going to be the Crows. Here we have another almost ridiculously sparse musical landscape dominated by Duritz's choked vocals. Only Charlie Gillingham's utterly beautiful accordion reminds us there's even other people in this band. We're in familiar territory here, both lyrically and emotionally, but somehow "Raining in Baltimore" manages to be even more filled with alienation than "Round Here" was. At least there Duritz could compare his feelings of not fitting in to those of various other outcasts and oddballs. Belonging through not belonging was a group activity.
Here, there's no-one around but him. It was bad enough when the circus was somewhere you risked falling, but now even that possibility for change is gone. It's just one more abandoned space now, one more place he can't go anymore. When people stop visiting the circus, it's time to pull the top down. You've had your fun, but it's time to admit it isn't working anymore.
Once you know the back-story to the Crows song "Anna Begins" from the same album - American boy meets Australian girl on long holiday in Europe, and they fall completely in love despite both having to return home come summer's end - it's very hard not to see "Raining in Baltimore" as a sequel to that song. The desire for travel to be back with his love is obvious. Duritz needs his sunburn. He needs his plane ride. But it's more complicated than that. Australia is about 10 000 miles from the States, not 3 500. Duritz isn't thinking of the girl across the Pacific right now, but the one that was once across the Atlantic. He misses a time as much as a place.
Sure, he says he needs a phone-call, to connect to her in the present, but their conversations don't go anywhere these days. It's the same territory over and over again; nothing to talk about but how the weather is getting worse. If he can't get a sunburn, he'll settle for a raincoat. Something that will let him function in the present. Because yes, the past just isn't working any more, but right now isn't going any better. And so here he sits, watching his memories fade, with nothing and no-one around to replace them.
I ran into this song - absolutely cannoned into it, really - at exactly the right time, which is to say: exactly the wrong time. It was exam term of my first year in university, and I was having a hard time dealing with the separation from my girlfriend back home, who was studying for her A-levels. Six weeks passed without us seeing each other whilst we trudged through our respective revision calendars. Neither of us had a reliable mobile. I'd phone her house from a payphone in the middle of a hallway, my mind addled by hours of equations and theorems, and hope her parents would tell me she was in. Sure, it wasn't 3,500 miles, just 40 or so. But when you have no car, and she has no car, and you both have exams, and you're both young as hell, that feels fucking far enough.
Looking back though, just like Duritz, things were already starting to shut down. Eight months of me being in my new home more often than my old one had taken its toll. The relationship was bleeding to death. Slowly, a few drops of blood at a time, but it was still dying. The following summer was all awkward silences and pointless sniping while we tried to figure out why what used to work didn't anymore. The break-up arrived about a month after her results did. I know now I wasn't missing her so much as I was missing the functioning relationship we'd had before I'd had to leave. Which didn't make breaking up hurt any less, obviously.
It was another Counting Crows that got me back on my feet after that, actually. But I'll tell that story some other day. The sun came out eventually, it almost always does. Sometimes, though, I still want to listen to the rain.