Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rival Schools - 'Pedals'

The last time Rival Schools put out an album, it was 2001 and I was 15. I liked System of a Down and Tool (and The Bouncing Souls!) and didn’t understand frontman Walter Schreifels’ legacy. Now, I realize that he’s one of the most important punk songwriters of the last 20 years, having penned amazing material for NYC hardcore legends Gorilla Biscuits, the heavier-than-metal Quicksand, and even his buddies in the pop-punk-ish CIV. That my discoveries would be bookended by the first and second Rival Schools records has to mean something.

Yet for all the years between United By Fate and Pedals, little seems to have changed for Rival Schools, and that’s a good thing. RS was perhaps Schreifels’ most consciously commercial project, but only slightly. Quicksand was too heavy for radio; Rival Schools falls into the Sunny Day Real Estate vein of 120 Minutes-style alternative. It’s more mainstream by comparison, but only by comparison.

There are little differences that separate Pedals from Fate. The guitars chug less. The tunes occasionally cultivate a more psych-rock feel. But generally speaking, this is the sequel fans always wanted, better than the band’s shelved album from a few years back (Although that’s a nifty bootleg).

Pedals takes a few spins to adjust to. It’s catchy without being poppy (Although "Choose Your Own Adventure" does seem overtly funky), noisy without being dissonant. At times it’s dancier (“69 Guns”) and garage rock-ier (“Shot After Shot”) than one would expect, yet the album overall is thrillingly cohesive.

Just like United By Fate, Pedals invites music obsessives to reconsider Schreifels’ legacy. He’s been cranking out great music for decades now, and Pedals reminds me that maybe I should set aside a day to rip through his collected works. It’s good to have Rival Schools back. I just hope I hear their next album before I turn 35.

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