Here’s the story, of a band named Rainer,
Who was touring in support of Long Knives Drawn.
All of it was tales of angst, like the others,
The hippest one around.
Something about Rainer Maria makes me angry. I can’t say whether it’s just because the band’s music comes across as overly precious or because every music critic in America has been suckered into thinking this pretension is Meaningful and Profound Rock Music. Naming your band after an obscure German poet and sitting around reading Very Good Books and talking about The Meaning of Relationships distinctly propels you out of the category of rock and roll and into the category of emo. It’s hard to imagine Slash sipping tea with Rainer Maria’s vocalist/bassist Caithlin De Marrais, so it’s fair to say that the description of rock band doesn’t work here.
Once you accept that, you’re still left with the other big obstacle: Rainer Maria is a very precious band. With lyrics like, “I wanted to be sweet / so you won’t disappoint me,” and song titles like “The Awful Truth of Loving” and “Situation:Relation,” it’s clear De Marrais has Big Things To Say. While there’s nothing wrong with having big things to say (Bob Dylan made an icon of himself by doing the very same thing), De Marrais’ lack of humor and intense seriousness whacks you over the head with a sledgehammer just to make sure you’ve gotten the point, which appears to be, quite simply, THAT SHE IS REALLY SAD.
Just so we’re all on the same page, there are Serious Issues that De Marrais talks about on Long Knives Drawn. Big ones. And since we’re taking them seriously, we must, of course, have musical accompaniment that reflects this. Therefore, we are all going to study our Sonic Youth records Very Intensely, and listen to avant-garde composers like John Cage. And then we will feel small and insignificant, but still want to express our Generalized Anxiety through loud guitars, bombastic drumming and deliberate bass plunking. And we’re going to playveryfastlikethis and make lots of NOISE. Then we’ll get quiet. And THENGETLOUDREALLYFASTAGAIN. And Caithlin can scream at us and maybe she’ll feel better. Because, like, music is therapy. ALRIGHT! I GET IT!
There are two tracks on the album, “Ears Ring” and “The Double Life,” that suggest Rainer Maria might be capable of taking a break from auditory journaling long enough to throw a song or two out there that doesn’t beat you over the head with its earnestness. “Ears Ring,” in particular, shows that Rainer Maria can actually — gasp! — get a groove on (but don’t tell the rest of the emo bands, or they might get kicked out of the club).
In essence, someone needs to tell these kids to lighten up and enjoy their success. With 80,000 records sold, clearly there’s a market for people who like to feel bad and make it worse by listening to someone else’s screeching, but I can’t help but think somewhere under there, De Marrais has a little bit more Chrissie Hynde in her than she lets on.