In Hear This, The A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, in honor of those pesky April showers, we’re looking at songs with “rain” in the title.
The Jesus And Mary Chain, “Happy When It Rains” (1987)
When The Jesus And Mary Chain erupted out of nowhere with the insta-classic debut album Psychocandy in 1985, the band appeared to personify the gloomy emo-goth movement of the era: people with giant Robert Smith-like hair, almost entirely black wardrobes, and extremely pale skin because they never saw the sun, if they could be bothered to look up at all. Naturally, my club kid friends and I clamored to the (Cabaret) Metro in Chicago for JAMC’s first appearance there, where we were greeted by a band that couldn’t have cared less how much we loved their record. They never looked up, ran through that first album in about a half-hour, and finished with a literal mic drop by one of the Reid brothers (who held out his hand, opened his fist, and dropped it), with no encores. We got the feeling that they would have respected us more if we hadn’t shown any enthusiasm at all.
For a band that bleak, the hairpin turn into occasional out-and-out optimism on the 1987 followup Darklands was downright unnerving. The band’s sound went from Psychocandy’s brilliant but spare setups to poppy, and more fully fleshed out: less feedback wall, more drum machine, with songs that frequently topped three minutes, unlike its predecessor. Few tracks spotlight JAMC’s new direction like Darklands’ second single, “Happy When It Rains,” a surprisingly moving story of an alt-romance.
Like its album bookend, “April Skies,” “Happy When It Rains” has an undeniable surge of positive romantic energy that sails the song across. Goth club kids needed a love anthem of their own, and this song provided it, with this hooky depiction of the main relationship: “And we tried so hard / And we looked so good / And we lived our lives in black.” It’s almost too much, so the song title makes sense, as the besotted is still going to need a little bleakness to balance out all of this unnerving joy: “Looking at me enjoying something / That feels like feels like pain.”
The Jesus And Mary Chain’s power surge kept chugging ahead; album three, Automatic, brought the revved-up classics “Head On” and “Blues From A Gun.” But “Happy When It Rains” was one of the first times the band figured out that the transformation of gloomy goth to romantically fueled pop momentum was irrepressible, from the dark club floor and beyond.