Poetry For Rainer or Shine

A Better Version of Me

Rainer Maria

By David Lilly

Remember the only band that used to matter? Of course you do: The Clash. Remember a little anthem from their London Calling album, "The Clampdown?" That's the first thing I thought of when I heard "Artificial Light," the first song on Rainer Maria's A Better Version of Me. The artwork on the front of the accompanying booklet evokes that of Brian Eno's Another Green World. Not bad reference points, eh? Also, it never hurts to have a cute female singer (who also plays bass).

From Madison, Wis. (now based in New York City), and the wreckage of a group named after the poet Ezra Pound, come Kyle Fischer, William Kuehn and the Caithlin De Marrais (she's the cute one) to form a band named after another poet, Rainer Maria Rilke of Germany. Their sound is melancholy, but moderately so. In other words, if you're looking for music to get thoroughly depressed by, this ain't it.

Intellectual musicians comprise Rainer Maria, but there's no resemblance at all to Steely Dan or Talking Heads. Most of the songs are like a cross between Smashing Pumpkins and early Clash, but without the angst - or at least with less aggression. Fischer and De Marrais met in a college poetry workshop, and it shows as soon as the disc begins, with lines like "Why is this technology an anathema to me? / If I could just breathe it out / I could always breathe back in," from "Artificial Light." An eerie song, "The Contents of Lincoln's Pockets," gives a description of the deceased President's physical reaction to being shot in the back of the head. This tune provides a possibly speculative description of the contents of Lincoln's pockets at that moment, and - possibly a first for modern music, but not surprisingly - also mentions Walt Whitman.

This is Rainer Maria's fourth CD and it is definitely worth hearing, especially for fans of poetry. Read more about the band and check out some sonic samples at www.rainermaria.com