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Rainer Maria | Catastrophe Keeps Us Together | review | alternative | Lollipop
Catastrophe Keeps Us Together (Grunion)
by Tim Den
Perhaps it's the spring air reawakening the hopeless romantic in me, but Catastrophe Keeps Us Together - beloved trio Rainer Maria's "comeback" album after 2003's widely panned Long Knives Drawn (even though it contained a few gems) - feels like a complete rebirth. New label, new approach to songwriting (the group took its time - almost three years - composing songs without contractual pressure), and a newfound understanding of melodies have made this album a giant leap forward in every way. Sure, Long Knives Drawn tried to distance itself from its predecessors by lowering the melodrama and upping the ROCK, but in the process, many hooks and catch phrases were sacrificed. Not so with Catastrophe Keeps Us Together. It doesn't lower or up anything; instead it focuses on succinct, affectionate, substantial songwriting and lets the melodies take center stage. Never have the band sounded so confident and self-assured in their choice of vocal lines. Bassist/vocalist Caithlin De Marrais absolutely shines as a beacon of power, whether whispering or belting out astonishingly muscular-yet-fluid hooks. In the past, she yearned for heights her vocal chords could barely reach, but after so many years in the game, it seems she's perfected her execution. Never for a second does she sound like she's going out of her range; never for a second does she sound anything less than gigantic and awesome. It's not as if she's singing Pavarotti, she's simply allowing her natural, instinctual melodic inclinations to work in conjunction with her thorough understanding of her physical capabilities as a vocalist. The results are fucking ridiculously amazing.
In all seriousness, it's as if every chorus on Catastrophe Keeps Us Together was written to be etched into your soul. They tug at your heart sleeves, remind you of emotional scars, make you hopeful for the future. Shit, they force you to fall in love foolishly. They're tailored for the throat of everyonr who has loved, wants to love, hates love but can't stay away, etc. They're headstrong yet sublime, immediate yet weighty, delivered with a sense that they're refrains you've waited your whole life to sing. When De Marrais pushes the overdrive on "Life of Leisure" and "Make You Mine," you almost have to close your eyes because of the overwhelming visceral reaction it gets out of your guts. It feels like triumph over a relationship gone south, a well as the celebration of a newly born infatuation. Wonderful emotional resonance is everywhere on this album, more than you'd expect from a trio who started out fumbling over emo breakdowns and obtuse lyrics. Again, ridiculously amazing.
Rainer Maria are a new band. No more unorganized shouting, no more geek rock arpeggios, no more Poetry 101 prose. Catastrophe Keeps Us Together is the sound of maturity, one that gracefully enters the room, steals your heart, and exits like a breeze before you even know what happened. It's a collection of excellent songs that rely on no fancy dressing, just a few tried-and-true chord progressions coupled with devastating hooks that somehow add up to a joyous and gorgeous album. Forget all preconceived notions and let Catastrophe Keeps Us Together woo you.