"Oh, you're wicked / You look so wicked!"
With this declaration of independence in the album's opening track, "Mystery and Misery," Rainer Maria has been reborn. No more meandering songs about the contents of Lincoln's pockets. No more fake love songs. "Long Knives Drawn" is 9 songs and 35 and a half minutes of some of the most brutally honest and intensely emotional music you will hear in 2003.
The previously mentioned opener, "Mystery and Misery" continues the band's tradition of having absolutely killer opening tracks. Coming up second is "Long Knives," quite possibly the most sinister song the band's ever written musically. The guitar/bass interplay coupled with singer Caithlin's newly powerful vocals sends shivers up my spine. "Let's get over each other / so that we can fall in love again / Won't you hold me?" Does it get much more raw than that? Doubtful.
"Ears Ring" follows, keeping the intensity of the album at a maximum. I've loved this song since it's prior release on the "Ears Ring" EP, and it still shreds. Guitarist Kyle sounds like he's beating his guitar into a bloody pulp on this song, taking out the same aggressions that Caithlin is releasing via her impassioned vocals.
"The Double Life" gives the album a slight break, being a bit slower than it's predecessors, and a bit more mellow as well, at least during the verses. I still find myself hanging on every word Caithlin utters, wanting to know how these four minute glimpses into her life turn out. A happy ending never seems to be in the cards, with lines like "I wasn't paying attention / and you quietly reeled me in again / it's just business as usual."
The album continues with "The Awful Truth Of Loving," a relapse into the band's more sweetly melodic sound contained on their "Look Now, Look Again" LP. Even though it sounds familiar, Caithlin's vocals make the song into what it is - her voice has matured greatly since 2001's "A Better Version Of Me."
Continuing at a medium pace is "The Imperatives," powered by drummer Bill's propulsive drumming and a mixture of Kyle and Caithlin's dissonant guitar and bass parts. The listener gets awashed with sound through the choruses, as Caithlin screams "Let's get out!" repeatedly.
The album reaches it's 2/3rds point with "Floors," another sinister-sounding song that builds up sonically until the chorus when the band really opens up instrumentally and vocally. The bass sounds as heavy as ever, and it grooves impeccably.
"CT Catholic" and "Situation: Relation" tie up the album's loose ends with an equal mixture of loud and soft. The former finally lets Kyle sing along with Caithlin, putting a unique perspective on the vocals. It's one of the poppier and happier songs on the album, and it's a fine reprieve from the pain of the other tracks. "Situation: Relation" brings the album to a close with a simple guitar and voice ballad, allowing memories of the opening track of "Look Now Look Again" to flood my memories. Caithlin's voice finally seems tired from belting out the previous eight tracks, and as her strong alto tamber begins to waver and fade, the album ends. A stunning closer to an absolutely fantastic album.
Oh yeah, the artwork is really, really gorgeous, too. It conveys the desparation contained within the CD accurately. All I could ask for are lyrics, but I'm not registering any complaints over here.
The Rainer Maria you once knew is dead. In it's place are a trio of musicians who have rediscovered themselves through this collection of songs. I can say with assurance that this will be in my Top 10 of 2003 list - this is the first notable release of 2003 for me, and is worth as much praise as I can muster for it.
The Double Life
Stream the entire album here