Rainer Maria
Long Knives Drawn
2003
Polyvinyl
9 tracks
35:24

It is pretty easy to ignore a band like Rainer Maria. After all, it came into the emo-goes- indie scene late and with little flash. The coed threesome has always created music that was "just fine" for the genre, and short of the fleeting novelty of female vocals, there has been nothing obvious to force the band into the limelight. However this inobtrusive band capped the College Music Journal's top 200 with its last release, it tours non-stop, and a quick search of the web reveals that it has a fan base that just doesn't end. So what am I missing?

With hopes of discovery, I initially investigated the words that create Long Knives Drawn. A band borne out of University of Wisconsin poetry workshops and named for German poet Rainer Maria Rilke must surely use the language skillfully. Over the span of several listens, I found loose verse with rhyme that only entered when it seems natural, little attention to meter, and no lofty notions or witty phrasings. The lyrics are surprisingly simple with a narrow scope that focuses entirely on the subject of relationships, and more specifically, the requirements, expectations, longings, and desperations they inspire. Even if drenched in emotion and ripe with hackneyed sentiment, the lyrics are generally mature, and their approach fresh. Although not revolutionary, they are, at times, thought provoking, and did inspire me to head to the band's eponymous website to study the words my ears may have misheard. That doesn't happen often, so yes, Rainer Maria has good lyrics. But so what?

Those familiar with previous Rainer Maria releases are sure to notice some potentially unwelcome growth on Long Knives Drawn. In particular, vocalist/bassist Caithlin De Marrais shows a newfound vocal versatility, playing the expected supporting roles throughout most of the album, but also pushing through to her full voice on (what I may alone find to be) delightful occasions. These moments are most elegantly exemplified on the disc's opener, "Mystery and Misery," as well as the albums shimmering masterpiece, "CT Catholic." In both songs she leaps from her passable lower registers to a rich clean voice without the self-conscious waiver she lets creep into most songs on the disc. These moments are highly reminiscent of Elena Ritchie of Ashes – certainly a progenitor of Rainer Maria. In a somewhat unique moment, she lends a clean and bright pop voice to "The Awful Truth Of Loving." Along with the tumbling instrumentation, this song gleefully skips down a path laid by The Sundays more than a de

Finally to songcraft itself: It's of no surprise that the songs themselves aren't constructed in any particularly ingenious way, nor are the tones and sounds that comprise them of any shocking consequence. In fact the band seems satisfied with the cleanish tones provided by their amps. And although each song flows well and maintains my interest throughout, I find few songs to have stuck in my head. Refrains seem hooksome enough when listening, but recalling both melody and lyrics to most of the album's songs is nearly impossible. The notable exception being the sparking tuneful pop of "The Awful Truth Of Loving" mentioned above. Although not he best song on the album, it is certainly the most endearing.

So what's so special about Rainer Maria and Long Knives Drawn? As disparate parts, nothing; they do many things well, as do many other bands. Rainer Maria has, however, put together a surprising number of these good things resulting in a sound, and album, that can truly be described as solid. While the compliment may sound weak, the band and its fans have gotten along just swimmingly without me singing their praises to date, and I suspect they will continue to do everything by-the-book, only expanding upon their deserved reputation.