The problem with reviewing the whole new Rainer Maria album
was I just wanted to listen to the first track, "Catastrophe"
over and over again. It's smart, catchy and arresting. It sounds fresh
and ambitious, all the more impressive given the band has been through
10 years of minor success and decent, if barely distinguishable, records.
Musically, "Catastrophe" combines the danceable hooks of
Metric with the indie rock of Rilo Kiley and the loud
urgency of Sleater-Kinney. That probably makes no sense, but
check out the song and you'll know what I mean. Lyrically, it's clever
and political and somehow hopeful - brilliant, in short. "Catastrophe
keeps us together / We're the architects of the world / We're taking
it all apart / Do you think we could go on forever / when the architects
of the war / are handing out the swords? / Well I've got a plan /
I'm gonna find you / at the end of the world."
So I finally got over it and started listening to the rest of the
album. Musically, it is full of surprises and tempo changes, which
seem exceedingly rare in the indie rock world. The band is equally
capable of crashing punk-pop and soft acoustic laments, and comfortable
switching off between the two throughout the album. The second track,
"Life of Leisure" kicks it up a little louder and faster
than "Catastrophe" (they follow the "High Fidelity"
mix tape rules).
Like much of the album, the lyrics are personal and mildly bitter.
They have a universal nature in their simplicity: "The future's
going out of focus / Our talk is cheap, but the phone bill is not."
The next track, aptly titled "Burn" starts slow and gradually
builds to an angry dirge.
The first real acoustic break comes at track five, "Terrified,"
which has Caithlin De Marrais doing that captivating voice-cracking
thing Regina Spektor does where she sounds on the verge of
tears. It's followed by "Cities Above," a weird, mid-album
interlude with brief, whispered lyrics and Dresden Dolls-ish
Eastern European melodies.
The album should end with the 10th track, "Southpaw," an
intense number about boxing (or more likely a metaphor for relationships,
like every song and movie about boxing). De Marrais sounds truly defeated
when she sings, "How many rounds can I go? / And how can I soften
the blows? / Can I avoid them altogether?"
You want to let her out of the ring, but she keeps swinging with a
pretty, but unnecessary cover of Dylan's "I'll Keep it
With Mine" and a pointlessly long instrumental hidden track (didn't
we get over those after the second Pearl Jam album?).
2. Life of Leisure
6. Cities Above
7. Already Lost
8. Clear and True
9. Make You Mine
11. I'll Make You Mine
Check out more
e-mail the chief
Like this article?
it to a friend!