Veritas Est Rock

Paul Karner

A few weeks ago I happened upon a Rainer Maria show while visiting a friend in Michigan. While meandering around before the bands started, I overheard the guy working the door describe Rainer Maria to an uninformed attendee as a “classic indie rock band.”
It was strange to think that a band that always struck me as a fairly peripheral in the rock scene had earned the label “classic” anything. They were never anyone’s favorite band, at least not for very long, and they were never seen as particularly revolutionary.
So what is it then? Longevity? Consistency? Or perhaps, as I’ve concluded, Rainer Maria is one of those bands that harkens back to a simpler time in the history of indie rock.
The ’90s produced a slew of bands that had little to be angry at, yet found a comfortable spot outside of the mainstream for no other reason than they weren’t marketable and didn’t care.
Ignoring the “emo” stigma, Rainer Maria has managed to find a quiet and unobtrusive niche below the mainstream radar and has managed to maintain this place for over a decade — a substantial period of time from the perspective of most music fans.
However, their latest album, “Catastrophe Keeps Us Together,” released Tuesday, holds no surprises or bursts of repressed artistic frustration. It’s a very predictable follow-up to their previous three albums and with the exception of improved production on “Catastrophe,” there’s little break from the band’s coined pop-emo sound. The fluffy guitar riffs and over-exerted vocals from singer Caithlin De Marrais seem a bit — dare I say — dated.
Perhaps, for the die-hard fan, an album like “Catastrophe” by a band like Rainer Maria should be judged outside of its immediate context. After all, they’re a “classic,” right? Unfortunately, as a listener without any former loyalties to Rainer Maria, I simply hear music that is unaware of the world around it, and not in the prolific sense.
Sure, there is a sultry instrumental vamp in the middle of the album and a delicate acoustic track thrown in the mix, but the truth is, “Catastrophe” as a whole could have been released in 2001 along with “A Better Version of Me, ” and few would have taken a second look.
While I don’t propose that every band forcibly reinvent themselves in each song that they write, I feel Rainer Maria has such a warm and inviting sound that they haven’t given room to breathe in the past six years. It’s an inspiring thing to see a band find an artistic direction and follow it whole-heartedly, but a direction implies movement and growth. Rainer Maria appears to have set up camp after finding a comfortable spot in the shade.