Friday, May 27, 2011

United by Fate

I was extremely excited when I found out that Rival Schools would be putting out a new album in 2011.  I've been a big fan of Walter Schreifels since Quicksand, and Rival Schools' debut album would make my very short list of desert island discs.  I'd always wanted more.

Schreifels' 2010 solo disc An Open Letter To The Scene left me a little cold.  Of course, I respect any artist following their muse and branching out, but acoustic guitars and jangly pop arrangements just weren't what I wanted to hear from the man behind "Freezing Process".

So when I found out that Rival Schools were reunited and a new album was imminent, I was thrilled.  I grabbed Pedals on iTunes, and I absolutely love it.  Go buy it right now.  Seriously, I'll wait.

However, Pedals does not sound like it was put out by the same band that recorded United By Fate.  Granted, many years have passed, but it goes much deeper.  I was hoping for more of the same melodic aggression that made tracks like "Used For Glue" so wonderful.  How many bands are tough enough to get away with a one-chord riff?  I actually resent the house party video for how much it betrays this track's bad-assery.

To me, this doesn't sound like just the same band ten years on.  It sounds like a different band altogether, with Schreifels' unmistakeable vocals and gift for melody staying constant.  The catchy sensibilities of opening tracks "Wring It Out" and "69 Guns" (remixed at the link by Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys) evoke Open Letter, and it isn't until the opening riff of "Eyes Wide Open" that I'm really reminded of early Rival Schools.  However, the song quickly veers off into a soaring chorus that wouldn't sound out of place on a U2 album.  To be clear, that isn't a bad thing.  It's a great track, it's just not what I was expecting.  By "Choose Your Own Adventure", my favourite track on an album seemingly full of favourite tracks, funky synth textures proclaim loudly and proudly that all bets are off.

It's not what I expected, but it's definitely my favourite album of 2011 to date, and a worthy successor to United.  I can't help wondering what a Rival Schools follow-up album might have sounded like in 2003, 2 years after their debut.  I wanted to hear more from those guys.  But if Rival Schools is dead, then long live Rival Schools!  I just hope I don't have to wait another decade to hear more.

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