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Rival Schools United By Fate

By Jeff Watson, Contributor
Wednesday, December 5, 2001 @ 10:52 AM


(Island Records)

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Open any copy of Rolling Stone or Spin these days and it’s nigh impossible to not come across a fawning article on a new emo band. Like grunge ten years ago, emo seems to be the genre-du-jour for rock-starved journalists who don’t give two hoots about nu-metal. But the term ‘emo’ is a hard one to peg. The term was originally used to describe post-post-punk acts that emoted like a young Harvey Keitel backed with aggressive, semi-melodic hardcore sounds (e.g. Fugazi, Jawbox, Rites of Spring). Now, just about any mook with a distortion pedal and a melody is dubbed ‘emo.’ Everyone from New Found Glory to Weezer to Alkaline Trio is in the club. In a few months, Mariah Carey will probably be given the emo handle.

Emo, schemo, I say. Is it good or ain’t it? Does it rock or don’t it? Rival Schools are the latest buncha guys to get the dreaded emo tag, but this debut album is miles beyond the typical soft/loud dynamics, overdone vocal histrionics and cornball teenage-angst lyrics that are typical of the genre. Formed outta the ashes of New York legends-that-never-were Gorilla Biscuits, Iceburn, CIV, and Quicksand, this foursome bashes out a super-melodic fusion of pop and metal, often reminiscent of Husker DUnited By Fate excels due in large part to the instrumental prowess on display here. Drummer/octopus Sam Siegler races around his kit like he’s got the spirit of Keith Moon in him, while axemen Walter Schreifels and Ian Love’s six-stringing is as confident and assured as that of Tom Verlaine or Chris Spedding.

The songwriting on the record is especially juicy, with hooks that’ll stick in yer craw for weeks without coming off cloying or plastic. Dumbed-down metal this ain’t though; this is definitely music for disaffected art-skoolers who are still pissed off that Superchunk haven’t put out a good record in ten years. Tracks like “Travel By Telephone,” “Good Things” and “The Switch” are primo examples of today’s post-punk: melodic, aggressive and complex. Bottom line? If you think Weezer are pansies but aren’t exactly salivating like one o’ Pavlov’s pups over the latest Slayer release, this might be the album for ya.

***1/2 (for guys with glasses, short hair and Dickies)

* (for guys with no glasses, mullets and ripped jeans)


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