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Rival Schools – United By Fate

Island Records, 2001

The bright green sliver of album art that shone amidst the cracked cases and nineties soundtracks gave me something to finally aim for with my hand as I browsed a difficult dollar bin the other day.  The design of the disc is really striking, even if it is in a shade of green that normally causes one to feel rather relaxed.  I like the circle with the erratically spaced horizontal lines the most, but it’s the duo that I can’t figure out.  Are they running or getting ready to sit cross-legged?  Their arms also look rather flimsy, so I have no idea really on what’s going on.  However, I did notice that the album was an advance CD all the way from 2001, so for this to be found nine years later on the cheap must have meant that someone held onto it for awhile for a reason.  Well, I took it upon myself (and my quarters) to find out that reason.

The marketers of the CD wanted to tell me why I made the right decision nearly a decade later.  Since this is an advance CD, the inside the cover of the album is a long script about why this record is the greatest thing ever released.  It helps that the group contains one of the more prominent American hardcore musicians in Walter Schreifels from Gorilla Biscuits and Quicksand, which the marketers gushingly elaborates on.  Cache Tolman is also a member, which gives the group a little more cred since he was in CIV and has worked with the Gavin Rossdale.  Finally, drummer Sammy Siegler was all over the place with Glassjaw, Youth of Today, and quite a few others.  Does this excite you?  It was supposed to.  Since the meeting of all of these members constitutes as “an event” in hardcore music history, I began to feel inferior to the magnitude of awesomeness that was apparently contained within the thirteen tracks.

Needless to say I was ready to tear into this record, but it turns out it’s just a regular old hard rock kind of thing that is essentially passable.  The vocals of Schreifels definitely sound like they’ve been through a few cheese graters/hardcore bands, but it is a fitting sound for the type of music that the group blasts through.  “Travel By Telephone” is the introduction to the group and it comes across more as an emotional hard rock song that one has heard many times before but, of course, can’t think of which bands have already done it.  It’s a pretty good song, but it is commonplace.  Quicker and rawer songs like “High Acetate” is more like it thanks to the volume of the guitars and the immediacy in Schreifels voice.  Unfortunately, the breakneck speed is short-lived as they immediately sink into a slower, emotional track entitled “Undercovers On” that, of course, has the predictable emotional build.  Can you believe this thing goes five and half minutes?  It reminded me a little bit of Sunny Day Real Estate … which if you’ve heard enough SDRE beyond “Diary”, you’ve definitely heard more than enough of that pleading rock stuff already.  The band does pick it up to its usual place for the rest of the record with some decent tunes like “The Switch” and “My Echo”, but nothing really stood out for me.  If a band is going to be “an event” I would have figured I’d have noticed.

You can find a few music clips from their MySpace page or Last.fm.

I can see why people were excited for this disc back in 2001 and I can’t blame the marketer for trying to get people to believe that this was a big deal. However, what it really ended up being was a foray into something more accessible by musicians who aren’t used to doing such music. It was room temperature hard rock and not much more. It still had some appeal to a few crowds of listeners, so it was a bit surprising to find out that the band only put out one record before going off to their respective groups. Apparently the band is putting out a reunion album soon, so if you like what you hear maybe you’ll look forward to it. After nine years apart, hopefully it sounds better than what they tried before.

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