Rainer Maria - S/T - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Rainer Maria - S/T

by James Weiskittel Rating:8 Release Date:2017-08-18

When it comes to music, timing is usually everything.  Case in point being the New York by way of Wisconsin trio Rainer Maria, who rode the cresting first-wave of emo for over a decade before quietly disbanding back in 2006, citing ‘musical and personal’ differences.  

So after a ten year hiatus which saw the members pursuing side-projects (Caithlin De Marrais released a couple of solo records) and soul-searching (William Kuehn moved to Yemen while Kaia Fischer followed her Tibetan studies to Asia) the older, wiser and world-traveled members of Rainer Maria decided to play a reunion show back in 2014, which eventually led to rumblings of a ‘reunion’ record, and all of which brings us to the band’s latest release, S/T.

Buoyed by impassioned vocals, lush, nuance filled production, and some impressively muscular arrangements, S/T does a good job of displaying just about every facet of Rainer Maria’s sound.  And what becomes clear within a few seconds of the crushing opening track “Broke Open Love” is that despite the years and thousands of miles between releases, S/T essentially picks up right where the band left off.  The raucously upbeat “Suicides and Lazy Eyes” and the mid-tempo anthem “Lower Worlds” were terrific choices as lead-off singles and cap off a stunning opening salvo for the band that effectively erases any doubt of Rainer Maria’s reunion intentions: the band is simply here to rock.

Tracks like the quirky “Fortress Mattress” and the pensive “Blackbird” touch upon the band’s indie roots while the U2-esque “Ornaments of Empty” and the stomping romp that is “Communicator” show off just how much sonic ground this trio is capable of covering.  The brooding “Hellebore” is as effective an album closer as the band has written, bookending what is an impressively realized return to form.

With all of that being said, if there is one complaint to wage against the album it would be that the nine tracks representing S/T do feel a bit slight, especially when considering the length of time between releases.  But it’s to the band’s credit that they are still capable of leaving an audience wanting more after a decade-long hiatus when similar circumstances would have rendered most other bands a distant memory.

While it may be hard to imagine it now, there was a time when the term ‘emo’ was all the rage.  The natural evolution from bands (Sunny Day Real Estate, Drive Like Jehu, etc.) that never quite fit into the Alt-Rock scene, emo was a welcome alternative to the agro-fueled grunt-rock that was dominating airwaves at the time.  And where Rainer Maria may have benefited from entering on the ground floor of what was an ever-evolving genre, their decision to avoid staying too long at the party was perhaps ultimately of equal importance.  And in regards to their return, fans should rejoice, S/T is a keeper.

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Great review, James.

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