The knee-jerk reaction for most critics talking about Rainer Maria is to effuse over all the ten-cent words. The article just writes itself: Quote some lyrics from the trio's 2001 album A Better Version of Me (e.g., "Why is this technology/An anathema to me?"), mention that singer/bassist Caithlin de Marrais and guitarist Kyle Fischer met in a poetry workshop and allude to the fact that the band is named after nineteenth-century poet Rainer Maria Rilke. But Elvis Costello set the bar pretty high when he snuck the word "anesthetize" into "Radio Radio" 25 years ago, and big words with nothing behind them equal big fat pretension.
So leave the big words behind; Rainer Maria has. The group's new album, Long Knives Drawn, shows that visceral emotion can take you further than a thesaurus can. The relationship between Rainer Maria's lyrics and "real" poetry has more to do with tone and telling images than vocabulary.
Over the last few albums, de Marrais has emerged as the frontwoman, taking over more of the vocal duties previously shared with Fischer. The mantle suits her. Although Rainer Maria's music seems to be losing a little of its magnificent bombast as the songwriters mature, de Marrais' full-throttle vocals still have the power to shock, and her bass-playing forms a perfect bridge between William Kuehn's drums and Fischer's jagged but melodic guitar. Despite her new status, the band still functions as an organic unit, and it's sure to blow away those who make it to the Creepy Crawl on Wednesday. Dictionaries strictly optional.