Rainer Maria

Long Drawn Knives (Polyvinyl)

Steve Earle, with Garrison Starr Odeon, 1295 Old River Road, the Flats 8 p.m. Wednesday, February 5, $24.50 advance/$27 day of show, 216-241-5555.
Too much has been written about Rainer Maria's "articulate" rock by critics who are too easily impressed with the band's vocabulary. If it's vocabulary that strikes us and not the music, then maybe both sides -- the media and Rainer Maria -- need to reevaluate the game.

Maria's latest, Long Drawn Knives, is plenty verbose, if only because each song's narrative structure depends on step-by-step storytelling more than truly lyrical songs might. Caithlin de Marrais's vocals are placed way on top of Kyle Fischer's guitar, neutralizing its strained expression. Marrais is much more effective when she croons, as she does on "The Awful Truth of Loving" when she hopelessly confesses, "I wanted to be sweet/So you won't be disappointed." Her voice just doesn't translate well to punk agitation -- and she has trouble varying her delivery when it comes to angst.

"Double Life" and "Ears Ring," the two great songs on the album, emphatically pull at the listener with their obsessive, looping guitars and desperate lyricism. The majority of the other tracks, however, point to romanticism as their catalyst but lose their effectiveness by going on much too long.

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