Rainer Maria – Long Knives Drawn (Polyvinyl)

rainer-maria-long-knivesThe heaps of fuzz on Rainer Maria’s guitars are a sort of recent anachronism — rather than spinning one back 30 years or so to the birth of fuzzy guitars, they head back about 9 years to Tsunami, Sebadoh and Pavement. That is to say Rainer Maria’s guitars avoid the sounds their peers are coated in — the icy cold clean sounds, the crunch of the stomp box, and the warm tube sounds of garage rock. This is essential to note because a lot of Rainer Maria’s songs are sentimental, to say the least, yet they avoid the trap of having “emotional” added to any quick description of their sound by making sure their sound is not the starts-and-stops, fits-and-wails fragile temperament of many modern indie bands. The fuzz gives Rainer Maria’s songs a dreamy, heady quality.

Rainer Maria plays the sort of brainy indie pop that’s been in relative obscurity lately. Big names like Versus and Tsunami are easy comparisons even beyond the guitar sounds. Caithlin De Marrais’s vocals sometimes carry the same round inflection that Jenny Toomey used to. De Marrais’s impassioned deliver makes songs like “The Double Life” and “Ears Ring” worth every second. The lyrics are careful and literate — avoiding cliche but never getting too
deep. And trust me, if I can sit through a song with the title “The Awful Truth of Loving” and not cringe, anyone can.

Comparisons may be easy to draw but the band stands out on their own. De Marrais’s bass lines bubble occasionally with the vitality of Tina Weymouth’s. Kyle Fischer’s fuzzy guitar fills your head with its blurry chords and William Kuehn’s drums pound in the background. When Kuehn opens up, it’s in that way where you realize these three musicians were meant to play together. Rainer Maria have made perfect late night dorm music.

[This piece appeared in The Rage.]