a few good tracks
just misses the buy list

Grade 1.6

released Mar 8th, 2011

from the album - Shot After Shot - 1.5


from all music


Born out of a hearty hardcore pedigree, the members of Rival Schools stepped to the plate with a phenomenal history and the qualities that would point towards an amazing future. Singer and guitarist Walter Schreifels began making waves as the guitarist for '80s hardcore pioneers Gorilla Biscuits and then went on to influence the entire post-hardcore movement with his influential work in Quicksand, as well as production for acts like CIV and Hot Water Music. Drummer Sam Siegler has seen almost as much in his day, performing with an impressive list of bands that includes Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today, Judge, Shelter, CIV, and Glassjaw before finding his place in Rival Schools. Guitarist Ian Love honed his chops in NY's Burn and Die 116, and bassist Cache "Utah Slim" Tolman is an alumni of exploratory jazz metalloids Iceburn, as well as a former bandmate of Siegler in CIV. With such an expansive amount of experience, it was only natural that these musicians would find their common bonds and create a new group that took their collective talents to even greater heights.

Coming together in the first year of the new century, the group quickly gained a reputation for powerful rock before they even started to record. Combing the live intensity of Quicksand with more exploratory guitars and a newly melodic singing approach from Schreifels, Rival School took the urgency of the new metal trend and gave it a solid heart and a thoughtful mind. In an age when music was becoming dominated by completely unbelievable faux rock, the band disposed of clichés and focused on unbiased creativity. In an even more adventurous move, the group decided to make their first release something of a concept record and turned to Schreifels' own label, NY's Some Records, for the project. The idea was to start up a series of EPs wherein multiple groups would combine to create a single band, and Rival Schools looked no further than former Far frontman, current Onelinedrawing member, future New End Original singer, and sometimes touring partner Jonah Matranga to complete the equation. The resulting EP, Rival Schools United By Onelinedrawing, saw the band's initial excitement explode onto record with tracks like "Take One for the Team" and "Contraire," but the best was still to come. With allegiances to Island Records still existing from Schreifels' Quicksand days, the label scooped up the band's upcoming music, and summer 2001 saw the release of their first full-length LP, United By Fate. The record is a powerful document with adventurous songwriting, explosive energy, and melodically abrasive guitars, results that anyone who was paying attention should have been expecting all along.

The wheels began to come off shortly afterwards in 2002 when Ian Love left the group to focus on his side-project, Cardia. The rest of the band plugged away on a second album, but the group dissolved the following year amidst rumors that a second album was on the way. After going their separate ways, Rival Schools reunited again in 2008 and hit the European festival circuit before heading back into the studio to begin working on their sophomore effort in earnest. After a decade of anticipation, Pedals finally arrived in 2011.

Album Review

Things are always changing. Whether it’s realizing that the small town you came from now has a Starbucks and a mess of big-box retailers, or just getting a new haircut, the world is in flux in a million tiny ways. One has to imagine, then, that when Rival Schools returned to the post-hardcore landscape a decade after they had left it, they found it a very different place than the one they left behind. Emo had moved out of the basement and gotten a haircut, and was working at the mall now -- and making a good living at it to boot. The genre they had helped to popularize had taken on a life of its own, and while Rival Schools have certainly changed over the years, Pedals shows that their time away has certainly been a blessing for the band. Their sophomore album paints a picture of a band that has done a lot of growing up over the last ten years, replacing the fury and uncertainty of its benchmark debut with a slicker, self-assured sound. This change finds them delivering the same passion that they’ve always had, but in a way that feels more focused, as if the bandmembers are conveying exactly what they mean rather than just throwing everything out there and hoping something sticks. While this approach isn’t as energetic as it was on United by Fate, their new sense of melody works well for them. If Rival Schools had returned and tried to sound like the same band they were in 2001, there would have been the very real danger of it feeling disingenuous and forced, as if they were trying to recapture their glory days. Instead, the band is more relaxed and confident, and not afraid to experiment a little, adding dance flourishes on songs like “69 Guns” and fuzzy synths and organ stabs on “Choose Your Adventure.” These kinds of excursions make for an album that’s not merely good if you liked the music “way back when,” but is just a plain good listen from a band that’s as solid as ever.

Track Listing

1 Wring It Out Rival Schools 3:28
2 69 Guns Rival Schools 3:22
3 Eyes Wide Open Rival Schools 3:00
4 Choose Your Adventure Rival Schools 3:25
5 Racing to Red Lights Rival Schools 4:03
6 Shot After Shot Rival Schools, Traynor 3:14
7 A Parts for B Actors Rival Schools 3:38
8 Big Waves Rival Schools, Traynor 2:59
9 Small Doses Rival Schools 3:59
10 The Ghost Is Out There Rival Schools 3:20