Review Summary: Nothing Feels Good
Comeback records can be a tricky thing, especially in the context of a genre currently in a rebirth. Emo music lived and thrived mostly in the 90s when it was en vogue to be sad and to use loud/quiet/loud song structures. Emo died a resounding death around the turn of the millennium, although its influence would be heavily felt by pop punk bands breaking into the mainstream throughout the first half of the 2000s. Emo then experienced a revival starting in the mid-2000s; dozens of bands inspired by the 90s sound started sprouting, mostly in the Midwest, gaining independent music fame building off of the 90s sound. Bands who wouldn’t exist without American Football’s influence started selling out theaters, while AF themselves never played to more than 50 people. This newfound scene and interest in emo allowed a new generation to discover the 90s stuff, resulting in bands selling more records broken up than when they were together. And of course suddenly selling out their back catalogs, numerous 90s emo bands decided to get back together, tour off of newfound fame and interest, and a few groups even put out a new record. And so you have bands putting out atypical comeback records, records that contextually live inside a revival scene rather than simply within one band’s discography. Because many of these records and tours likely wouldn’t exist without said revival scenes, they have to be discussed not only within the context of the individual band’s discography but within the context of a scene within a scene.
Rainer Maria’s first run lasted a lot longer than the average emo band, they put out their last record Catastrophe Keeps Us Together
in 2006 and broke up shortly after. Rainer Maria also was moving farther and farther away from the traditional emo sound with each record, crafting a tone more akin to power chord and riff based indie rock. And so it becomes troublesome to judge whether S/T
is a continuation of the ‘06 record, or an attempt to reinvent the band, or an attempt to capitalize on the revival wave, or possibly all three.
doesn’t have a lot of punch, which wouldn’t be that big of a deal in a twinkly emo record, but S/T
doesn’t fit the bill of a emo comeback record at all, it’s much closer to being a continuation of the hard rock sound from ‘06 record. It’s easy to praise a band trying to progress their sound on a comeback record - unlike American Football’s blunder LP2
, which felt like a cheap copy of the band’s previous work - but regardless of all this context, S/T
isn’t a strong release.
Band leader Caithlin De Marrais’ bass playing is the main strength, often taking a lead role like in the opener “Broke Open Love.” The slow-burn and atmospheric closer “Hellebore” is another highlight, but everything in between is lacking. The crunchy guitar tone found in “Possession” is effective, but the chord progressions are so bland it takes away any semblance of punch. A lot of songs revolve around repeating the same chord ad nauseam, including “Lower Worlds,” as its guitar riffs drones on and on, lacking any quality that would be considered engaging or catchy. The nasally refrain of “Blackbird getaway” is grating, and as a vocalist, Caithlin De Marrais fits the soft emo prototype much more the hard rock edge the band is going for.
is tricky because it’s a comeback record that doesn’t sound at all like 90s emo by a band whose last couple of records only had hints of emo. I want to applaud them for breaking out of the genre, but all they've done is become average at another slightly different genre. Within the context of their discography, S/T
is easily their worst record, but that doesn’t mean it’s not much worse than their last record, as Rainer Maria was never anywhere near top-shelf emo or indie. S/T
is a valiant try by a band that has a strong history of trying, but it’s neither an impressive return to form, a nostalgic trip back to 90s emo, nor is it a breakthrough in Rainer Maria’s sound, it mostly just exists.