Review: Rival Schools

Rival Schools
“United By Fate”
(Island)

And I’m wearing my Quicksand T-Shirt the day this arrives.  Expectations, expectations.  Singer Walter Schreifels at one time fronted the band whose moniker had become a personal fashion statement and was one of the biggest influences on me as a musician.  So there is personal bias here.  I predict Rival Schools will hit the same way Quicksand did.  Incredible and under appreciated until after the fact.  (And still under appreciated.)  A superb sense of guitar tension.  “Used For Glue” (the single I saw rotated semi-occasionally on MTV2 and then pulled WAY too quickly) shows genius.  One of my definitions of rock ‘genius’ is the ability to make one chord, one note – struck repeatedly – sound just fucking awesome.  The gut of the song pounds along with a singularity I haven’t tasted since Jawbox’s “Savory”.  So the expected is delivered (“Holding Sand” sounds like a Soundgarden/Quicksand hybrid even with the dj/sample drum breakouts).  The fresh part of Rival Schools is their ability to get moody and lumber along building and decaying without ever crashing.  Songs like “The Switch” crackdown on typical rock formulas looking for a washed out melody to carry them.  Most songs feature at least one tricky breakdown or tangent and they stand out most in the tracks that follow the more traditional song structure.  Small touches of Fugazi meets Handsome when it rocks (sounds interesting huh?), well it is.  There are a few numbers here that have the head scratching ‘Undercovers On’ shows a blatant easy alterna-grunge-pop (Nirvana-ish) approach and sounds like another band altogether.   And the Husker Du meets Beatles number called ‘my echo’ also sounds like a guest band in for a track.  So a certain scattered feel abounds this disk.  Fans of Walter’s dramatic guitar work will find reward here and his singing is better, but the overall effect of the music doesn’t drip with the tension I was hoping for.  So I’ll just annoy the household with ‘Used For Glue’ stuck on repeat and hope ‘Holding Sand’ comes up once in awhile on the random.

bushman