If someone recommended Rainer Maria to you as a good emo band and you picked up a copy of their latest release, Catastrophe Keeps Us Together, you might have some difficulty understanding where that classification came from. Because even if Rainer Maria are an emo band, Catastrophe Keeps Us Together is not an emo album. For one, guitarist Kyle Fischer has been kicked off vocals completely, leaving plenty of room for Caithlin De Marrais to expand her singing -- and sounding quite nice, too, smoother and more melodic, choosing long, expressive notes over syncopated angrier ones. Her lyrics, while not exactly uplifting, don't look upon the tribulations of love with any kind of resentment. Instead, De Marrais acknowledges that difficulties happen (or have happened) and that not much can be done but sing about them. She hasn't resigned herself; she just isn't taking immediate action. The opener, the made-for-stadium-anthem "Catastrophe," talks about what the characters will do at the end of the world ("I've got a plan, I'm going to find you," she sings, almost ominously), a steady drum and driving guitar propelling the song along, with De Marrais' bass monotonously echoing the guitar line, making it very radio-friendly. Unfortunately, the most interesting song musically, "I'll Make You Mine," is the most predictable lyrically. It starts out nicely with a punky rhythm and reverby guitar riff, all of which leads to the inane chorus of "I'll make you mine because I love you so tonight." It doesn't get much better with "Southpaw," which tries too hard to be tricky and metaphorical in speaking about a "boxing match," but is so obviously talking about something "bigger" that it would have been better just to get things out in the open instead of poorly hiding them behind a pair of gloves. The album also contains some noticeable departures from Rainer Maria's louder sound, but they work surprisingly well. "Clear and True," which finds De Marrais singing a lot like Avril Lavigne or Kelly Clarkson, is pretty and smooth, and the cover of the Dylan-written Nico cover "I'll Keep It with Mine," comes off well, quiet and airy and clean. At this point it seems that Rainer Maria are much more modern rock than emo, but that doesn't mean that Catastrophe Keeps Us Together isn't a good album. It just has to be taken for what it is.
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown