Rivals Other Whedon Season-Climaxing Piano-&-Sad-Lady-Singer Ballads
[I reviewed the Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon song “Remains” on Amazon, but it kind of belongs here. Can’t wait to see “Epitaph One,” which it closes!]
You know how at the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer season two you hear Sarah McLachlan sing “Full of Grace” while the Slayer’s heart shatters into a million shards of pain? This is like that, but with more pain and self-loathing (hey, Whedon show!) and a closer thematic link to the show it graces, Dollhouse.
The structure’s kind of awesome. It starts out like an ending (listen to it, you’ll hear what I mean) (since I can’t explain it) resolving the melody before introducing it. The “Remains,” of course, are what’s left after the end of a life, and this is one of the ways the song ties in with the show’s structure, since we meet the main characters after their lives have been erased from their memories. If the ending of Buffy season two is about what you have left after you’ve lost everything in your life (Buffy famously replies, “Me!”) Dollhouse is about what’s left after you’ve lost everything you remember of your life. What “Remains” when all the markers of identity (your name, your relationships, your history) are gone?
“Remains” confronts the desperate appeal of blanking your own slate: “Burn down my home/My memory’s hardened into brightest chrome.” (Maybe it’s, “My memory’s hard as brightest chrome” or “My memory’s hardened and bright as chrome”–the lyrics aren’t out yet, and I had some dreams, they were clowns in my coffee.) “Every mistake seems to be caught on tape,” so the post-Watergate fancy turns to thoughts of erasure. The singer imagines “baptizing down to the pains,” evoking a major theme of the show: spiritual rebirth. [ETA: Unfortunately, the phrase “baptizing down to the pains” is not actually in the song. I asked Maurissa Tancharoen if the DVD lyrics were right, and they weren’t exactly, but they weren’t quite as wrong as mine. %-() Correct lyrics here.]
The show compares and contrasts characters trying to escape from the pain of their personal histories and trying to heal it, and the listener must wonder where the singer lies on that continuum of self-annihilation and self-recreation. The song suggests both yearnings to be, emotionally, not all that different.