One Random Single a Day #97: “Blueprint” (1987) by Rainbirds

Now, this is what I’m talking about!! So, the German band Rainbirds formed in 1986 and landed upon their name in homage to an instrumental track by Tom Waits. They found their greatest success at the start of their career with their self-titled debut album, as well as with its lead single “Blueprint”. “Blueprint” enjoyed much success across Europe, making it all the way to #7 on the German charts.

I couldn’t find much more information on the group itself, except that they’ve disbanded and reunited a couple of times – but really, that doesn’t matter too much right now, because this song alone is everything right now. I’m actually shocked that this is my first time ever really hearing of this single, because this is totally My Thing. This comes on the heels of the mid- to late-80s rise in alternative rock, both in the US and abroad, which sought to expand the image of the rock scene past the capitalist hedonism of the mainstream and into more serious artistic territory. While Rainbirds never quite shared the same stage on a similar level as bigger bands like R.E.M., Hüsker Dü, and later indie rock bands of the 90s, they are certainly a product of the rising trends erupting at this time.

After listening to “Blueprint” along with a few other tracks from their debut, it’s clear that the group takes more from British traditions of post-punk than any extraneous aspects of American rock music. Songs like “7 Compartments” and “No Greater Love” are enveloped in a kind of minimalist gloom, heightened by the prominent lyricism of lead singer Katherina Franck, who is also the group’s primary songwriter. Indeed, the powerful voice of Franck – not unlike the dominance of Patti Smith or Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries – remains one of the strongest aspects of the band’s sound, although the sound itself is certainly a good one. “Blueprint” in particular is led along by a foreboding guitar riff that introduces the track, but quickly turns a bit janglier before the first verse begins. But these are just anticipatory moves for the explosion in the chorus, which spearheads the single into some particularly memorable heights.

Lyrically, this song is cryptic in detailing its exact agenda, but that only means that it could go along a number of interesting directions. The song officially begins with Franck singing, “I walk ahead alone; you tell me not to go so fast / But I am slower than you think; I am as careful as your touch”. Later she insists, “I am further than the wall you have built around your future / I am higher than the tower you climb in a suicidal mood”. The easy route would be to immediately assume this to be directed at an ex-lover, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be an overarching kiss-off to any type of person or establishment with the intention to oppress or hold the speaker back from reaching their full potential. The recurring image of a blueprint indicates something that is planned, something predestined to occur no matter what; Franck suggests a sort of defiance of mere idea of this.

Once again, the true meaning of this song remains pretty vague upon initial analysis, and any further research I’ve given on the topic has remained fruitless. Needless to say, though, this song is pretty terrific. I compared it to British post-punk in its hard-hitting artistic sensibilities, but unlike the nihilism found in groups like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, and Gang of Four, this one is brimming with undeniable life and energy. The production has a sort of sonic deepness that could only really be captured in this era, which makes me so disappointed that I’ll probably never see this performed live in this lifetime or the next. Nonetheless, this recording is a welcome compromise.

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