Rainer Maria's newest album explores ideas of love, strength and loss, with Caithlin de Marrais's heartbreaking, voluptuous voice alongside brilliantly crafted lyrics that detail melancholy hope over robust, melodic music. Formed in 1995, Rainer Maria is Marrais on vocals and bass, Kyle Fischer on guitar and backing vocals and William Kuehn on drums. They are the literary brainiacs of the indie-rock world, using poetic lyrics, intellectual turns of phrase and artsy melodies to illustrate complex situations and desires. This album deals primarily with the potential, fear and disappointment that are involved in attempting to finesse the combination of love and independence, especially for women.
Long Knives Drawn (Polyvinyl Records) starts out with the ferociously smart "Mystery and Misery," on which Marrais asserts that "mystery and misery / can sometimes be a call to action / and can be a source of passion," turning twists of phrase into an exploration of love and regret, of hope and potential. This is an anthem for the guardedly optimistic, and Marrais sings it as if she has just now discovered the potency of the combination of true love and complete independence. Long Knives Drawn is an anthem of cautious entry back into love that is as concerned with romance and desire as it is with retaining one's autonomy and strength.
"The Awful Truth of Loving," a ballad rocker, details this intersection further: "it's a dilemma / of girls and boys for centuries / should I be with you? / should I forget about me?" On "Situation: Relation," when Marrais sings that "if indeed this was like a first marriage / then you and I together / can be like divorcees," it's easy to see the consequences of the love without selfhood. Throughout the album, Fischer's melodic and frequently haunting guitar, Kuehn's emphatic and intense drums and Marrais's fierce vocals and bass lines combine with Rainer Maria's intellect and poetic sensibility. Altogether, it's a discussion of the preservation of self in the face of love, concluding that both independence and love are desirable, and that beauty and strength can be found in even the nastiest of interpersonal situations. It's all about the poetry and the aesthetic of strength and not-so-subtle feminism that can transcend pain, regret and fear. Long Knives Drawn is a beautiful and ingenious album from a band that is as smart and lovely as it is funny and sassy.