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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Rival Schools United By Fate
Island Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
I have a confession to make: I am not, nor was I ever "hardcore." I've never been to a show and felt the need to point my finger triumphantly in the air, nor have I ever been compelled to "mosh" (in that pseudo-friendly hardcore way), or been motivated to draw giant X's on my hand to declare my lifestyle. I will be the first to admit that bands like the Gorilla Biscuits, CIV, and Youth of Today have had about the same musical impact on me as the Charlie Daniels Band or Hank Williams, Jr. (re: none).

With that said, I think my lack of knowledge may be the best thing for a review of an "ex-members of…" outfit, seeing as that I might not be as quick to flip my lid or harbor pre-conceived notions about what the band is "supposed" to sound like (for example, the hoopla surrounding Jets to Brazil). This review could turn into a fine example of what unbiased journalism is all about. So, read on soldiers.

The last time the world might have heard from lead singer Walter Schreifels could have been with his short-lived World's Fastest Car project. Although that band quickly fizzled out, his more familiar and successful band, Quicksand, established itself in the early 90's as one of the few bands, alongside Jawbox, that could expertly combine powerful and intense playing with sweet and sour melodic prowess.

That technique spills over into Schreifels work in Rival Schools, with a high concentration on hooks and might. The record is bombastic as all get out, and it's no wonder, that in this day of louder pop bands making waves in the mainstream, Island signed them. Rival Schools, like Quicksand before them, could have a fine time flittering with success on indie rock standards (and this album will undoubtedly blow up in that medium), but I would not be surprised to see these poster-boys rocking out behind a white walled backdrop, with an attractively disenchanted model prancing around, trying to "find herself."

With all the industry nonsense aside, though, Rival Schools are at the top of their game as far as the music they are trying to produce (which is a nice way to say they are good for what they are doing). The Rival Schools sound is comparable to two other "ex-member" bands, those being the Foo Fighters and Burning Airlines. Schreifels throaty voice and melodic tendencies on songs like the rollicking "My Echo" or the emotive pop stab "Good Things," as well as the distinct guitar mastery, allude J. Robbins quite a bit, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. And like the two aforementioned bands, as well as Jets to Brazil, Rival Schools gets away with being emotional without necessarily being "emo," which is good for any band trying to establish itself climbing out of the bottomless pit we call hardcore.

"United by Fate" is a record that never really takes it foot off the gas, barreling into curves and sort of doing so without much shame, which is definitely respectable. Although fueled by a major label, Rival Schools take a decidedly straight forward approach to rock that sometimes comes off calculated, but never pulls punches, and is never ashamed to just plain rock out with a smile on their face. While their previous bands may have tried to use music as a pedestal on which to stand upon and make a point, the only statement made on "United by Fate" comes on the strength of melody and aggression.

Reviewed by Ryan Allen
A former staff writer with fabulous hair, Ryan Allen once fronted Red Shirt Brigade with his brother, Scott. He currently fronts the art/fashion punk band Thunderbirds Are Now!, with is brother, Scott.

See other reviews by Ryan Allen



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