The Damien Rice b-side “Rat Within The Grain” from the 9 Crimes single has been steadily pacing towards my favorite song of the moment. Like so many of Damien’s creations, this one is piercing and terribly sad, soaked in a wistful bitterness.
I was first snagged purely by the linguistic aesthetics that stopped me in my tracks — the braids of wordplay like wood/would, want, wonderful, true. The repetition lulls you along like the chugging of a railroad car, then socks you in the gut with the acidity of his meaning.
Rat Within The Grain – Damien Rice
It gouges pretty harshly at the softest parts of my insides, as his jaded self-contempt seeps into the tender, almost-hidden professions of a maybe hopeless kind of love. In one long sentence, he goes from wanting to keep her at arm’s length because he knows that parts of him are a turbulent ocean, and wanting so much to be wonderful in her eyes. The circular logic is pristinely bittersweet:
I wouldn’t want you to want
to be wanted by me
I wouldn’t want you to worry
you’d be drowned within my sea
I only wanted to be wonderful,
in wonderful is true, in truth
I only really wanted to be wanted by you
Isn’t that more or less the human condition as it pertains to love, right there?
Then a moment later, the other most striking part of the song:
“In my bed go rest your head
upon the bones of a bigger man
he can cover you with rockwool
and you can close up like a clam . . .“
Just because I didn’t know what rockwool was, I googled, as I do. I learned that it’s an inorganic, alkaline, sterile, inert growing medium, the kind that a gardener would use to replace soil. Maybe that strikes you as too much technical knowledge, that I am a nerd who should just enjoy the song, but for me . . . knowing that makes it an even more brilliant lyric. Sterile. Inert. Alkaline. She closes up.
After I sit here and try to write about it, I realize the futility. Just listen to the song and the weight of the space it occupies. Hopeless and hopeful, redemptive and beyond redemption.