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CD Review: Rainer Maria’s Catastrophe Keeps Us Together

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Rainer Maria’s Catastrophe Keeps Us Together is a long way off from the band’s first studio release, 1997’s intelligent but uneven Past Worn Searching. 4 years after Past’s release, the band’s growth was solidified on the CMJ chart topper A Better Version of Me. Now, on April 4th, 2006, Catastrophe Keeps Us Together is released and it’s a new ballgame for the indie rock trio.

Caithlin De Marrais, the band’s vocalist/bassist, has taken great measures to improve upon her already commanding and refined voice. The guitars have been balanced and the bass no longer drowns out the vocals. The drums sound clean and tuned. It’s a new Rainer Maria, one that recognizes the near decade of
history behind them and channels it into a stylish and almost perfect record.

The group’s new standard in songwriting is apparent immediately. The opening number “Catastrophe” is sophisticated while accomplishing a catchiness not seen yet in the group’s career. This trend continues with the follow up tracks “Life of Leisure” and “Burn.” Not until after the fourth song, a rough little sparkplug titled “Bottle,” and the graceful “Terrified,” does the album move toward the familiar. “Clear and True” and “I’ll Make You Mine” could have been stripped from A Better Version of Me or Long Knives Drawn and show that, while Rainer Maria have taken noticeable strides in songwriting(garnered through an uninterrupted 2003 break between labels) the group hasn’t lost their emotive roots and indie-pop charm.

The album’s closer “I’ll Keep It With Mine” is the band’s first recorded cover song (Bob Dylan), and they let it gracefully close out the disc.

Catastophe marks a new artistic high for Rainer Maria, but it never reaches the apex it should. The songs themselves are individual achievements but their effect on the album as a whole rarely feels intentional. Regardless, 11 great tracks from a polished band is nothing to scoff at. Catastrophe Keeps Us Together is, hands down, one of the best albums of the year thus far.

Check out some sample tracks from Catastrophe on Rainer Maria’s
official site and on their Myspace page.

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About M. R. Benning

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