The Infinite Jukebox: The Rembrandts’ ‘The Other Side of Night’

When people mention The Rembrandts, inevitably it’s in connection with the theme from Friends, ‘I’ll Be There For You’, twice a top five hit in the UK in the heyday of the sitcom. Me being me, and liking the song’s R.E.M.-esque vigour and melody, dug deeper, to the extent of buying the band’s most recent CD, which they’d called, amusingly, LP , a follow-up to Untitled. Some people are born smartarses.
It wasn’t a bad album by any means, but it wasn’t as distinctive as I hoped. The overall sound, and songwriting, was much more reminiscent of Crowded House, and the release was not all that long after Woodface, but in the end there weren’t enough compelling tracks to justify keeping it, and I recorded the ones I wanted to keep and sold the album on. One of those songs was “The Other Side of Night”.
If all you listen to is the music, then this is a pleasant, low-tempo song, set to a gentle, shuffling beat, with an appealing but not overly-demonstrative melody, sung in a restrained and sometimes gently yearning voice. But that yearning note is not there for just fun, and when you tune your ear to the song, what this is about is loss, loss of a love, a might-have-been love. And it doesn’t take much to understand for what the Other Side of Night is a metaphor.
Sadness is encoded into the song, whose gentility becomes fragile in its playing out. Whoever she was is unknown, whatever she was is plain to see, and what has happened to her has been a sorrow that can never be relieved, and also a guilt. No farewell words will ever be heard from the other side of night.
This song is a companion to The Pierces’ glorious ‘Glorious’. It hasn’t a tenth of the fire of that song, and nothing of the Pierces’ determination not to take life as being over, but to live as loud and as hard as they can. The Rembrandts are a long way from recovering from their loss. They are calm and placid about it, accepting in part of what cannot be undone, but still they look back, seeing the absence, rather than forward, to the life best lived in honour of the loved one gone ahead.
It’s easy to say, no doubt in response to that early and devastating loss, that my thoughts turn too often to a mournful tone, that sadness and loss will always affect me more than joy and happiness. And the other side of night is right in my wheelhouse when it comes to words that describe.
Because Danny Wilde and Phil Solem are singing about a girl who took her own life. A girl who was not a love but who might have been, had there been another year, another season. A girl who’s become a question, not an answer. The sun shines where she is but The Rembrandts see only night, under a moon that throws a beautiful light but not one that eases, because no beauty can answer the unending questions.
Because nobody loses someone to suicide without questions as to their own part, the invisible responsibility, the unanswerable guilt at what might have been different had I been different. Those dead are always close at hand, around a corner, just out of the line of sight. Thank whatever passes in your world to a God, I have never experienced such a loss, but survivor’s guilt is one of the most powerful guilts that can be borne because it can never be lifted except by your own head.
For The Rembrandts, all that might have been were possibilities. Would I have fallen in love with her if there had been a longer time? The unspoken fear: was it for my failure to love that she chose to go beyond?
But she is where she chose to be, now and forever. Would she have inspired so beautiful a song without the mourning that exists in every note? That no-one can ever know.

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