We seem to be getting over the worst of our obsession with emo. Gone are the days when Brand New, Saves the Day, Dashboard Confessional, and Taking Back Sunday hung on everyone kid’s lips as the bands that express the emotions we all feel but are too reserved to show. 2002 and 2003 were great years for the genre with outstanding releases from Cursive, Brand New, Bright Eyes, and even Dashboard.
In 2004, maybe the newest “It-genre” — whatever it ends up being — articulates our feelings and impulses better, or maybe we’re just sick of watching these bands get so wound up and emotional. Maybe a little restraint and a step back will address what obstacles we face better than some emo temper-tantrum. In the immortal words of Modest Mouse, “Well, we’ll float on / Good news is on the way.”
That said, nothing about Rainer Maria even hints at restraint, subtlety, or safe distance. This band, together now for almost ten years, has lost none of its intensity since the first demo tape in ’95. Emerging from a college town in Wisconsin, this trio has consistently injected the genre of emo with tightly wound, high-energy arrangements and heart-on-your-sleeve, thesaurus-in-hand lyrics. Just because 2004 has thus far been a little lighter in the emo department doesn’t mean Rainer Maria is taking a break.
Anyone in Love with You (Already Knows) is a double-disc package, featuring both a DVD and a CD of live songs the band has collected after relentless touring. From the album’s start to its encores, the three members of Rainer Maria don’t back down for a second. Singer/bassist Caithlin De Marrais belts her heart out and wails on her lungs, but they never give out, and while she may be a little off-pitch on several notes, the sincerity of her message as well as her fervent expression of that message make up for any vocal imperfections. Guitarist/vocalist Kyle Fischer keeps his riffs simple, but the power behind those riffs — both sonically and melodically — serves as an intense counterpart to De Marrais’s voice as well as a commanding entity in and of itself. Finally, drummer William Kuehn kicks in his own rhythms to back up De Marrais’s bass lines.
The DVD starts out with “Mystery and Misery”, the strongest track from the band’s latest album of new material, Long Knives Drawn. De Marrais doesn’t move from her position behind the microphone but Fischer is fun to watch, his body keeping time with the music, his face an open book to how glad he is to be performing. Other stand-out tracks include “Planetary”, “CT Catholic”, and “Ears Ring”; however, “Tinfoil” from Rainer Maria’s debut record, Past Worn Searching, was obviously a favorite of the crowd’s, both on the DVD and the CD.
By about half-way through the set, the band’s urgency and exuberance starts to grate on the nerves. De Marrais’s voice sounds abrasive, Fischer’s riffs a little too strident. The sound quality is just sub-par enough to be distracting.
And it’s even worse on the CD. Both De Marrais and Fischer sound forced and whiny on “Tinfoil” and “The Reason the Night is Long”. “Long Knives” is almost unbearable with its shrill, repetitive guitar hook. Live music can sound so wonderful and full and bone-rattling on location, but on a recording, the imperfections and poor mixing really stand out. A live record will never be as good as the real thing, and so long as we keep this in mind when listening to and watching Anyone in Love with You, it’s easy to hear and understand the crowd’s enthusiasm and appreciation for the band onstage. Having seen this band live, I can say that the performance rocked much more and sounded much better than this album. If you’re still feeling the emo genre and are in need of a high-energy and emotionally intense concert, listen to a Rainer Maria studio recording and see a Rainer Maria show. Don’t bother with a sub-standard meeting of the two.