I don't understand this album. I don't understand this band, or the people in it. Rival Schools is composed of a veritable who's-who of the late 80's New York hardcore scene, and the post-hardcore scene that sprung from it. Members include Walter Schreifels, from the legendary Gorilla Biscuits and Quicksand, and Sammy Siegler, also an ex-Biscuit. I don't understand how people from so many good bands could make such a completely underwhelming album.
First off, what the fuck is post-hardcore? Does it even mean anything? If you look at it literally, it means "after hardcore." Well, this is a band that was started AFTER a bunch of these dudes were in hardcore bands, so I guess that qualifies. Apparently "post-hardcore" also means you write borderline radio rock songs that make fans of your earlier work scratch their heads and just sit there and wonder, "Why?"
Mainly, I could just see people buying this album based on the members' pedigree, and being extremely confused. They might check the liner notes, just to make sure they bought the correct album. First off, this album is produced as FUCK. I can almost anticipate a rock radio DJ beginning to talk at the ends of some songs. It's so slick, you could possibly go ice skating on it. That's not even mentioning Schreifels's vocals on this album, which inch closer and closer to aspiring-Cobain territory.
Ugh, I can't even focus on this. I'm just so baffled that people who actually contributed to an album as good as Start Today could be the same people responsible for such safe nuggets as "Good Things" or "Undercovers On," in my opinion two of the worst songs on this album, the latter of which throws in the "acoustic guitar over all the rest of the noise" trick that just pisses me off. I'm baffled at the apparently sampled drum parts on "Holding Sand" that sit right next to some near-nu-metal guitar riffs. I just can't wrap my head around this. If this is what post-hardcore really means, count me out.
It's official. Each project Walter Schreifels does, I like less and less. I really really like Gorilla Biscuits, I only like Quicksand's first album, and this, well this just doesn't do a thing for me. If anything, it just kind of makes my head hurt and confuses me. But, in the end, this album came out eight years ago, and I'm just another asshole with a blog and an opinion.
Let me start this post by saying I think Rocket From The Crypt may be one of the most consistent acts to have ever existed. No matter the release, you knew what you were getting yourself into: absolutely searing rock 'n' roll with blaring horns, and John Reis' perpetually sleazy vocal style leading the entire charge. As much as I liked a couple of the bands that came out of the whole "Return Of Rock" revival at the beginning of this decade (ie: The Hives, The Strokes), they were hardly needed to play the role of saviors, since RFTC was still trucking along just fine during that time period.
Reis also may be one of the craftiest businessmen to play the major label machine. In addition to getting RFTC on Interscope, he also convinced them to sign his other band at the time: the even weirder/more abrasive Drive Like Jehu, who put out their final album Yank Crime in 1994 before disbanding. Despite putting out most of RFTC's main LPs on major labels, Reis was also offered the freedom to put out smaller releases on labels such as Sympathy For The Record Industry. The State Of Art Is On Fire is a prime example of this.
1995 was probably the most busy year for RFTC- recording and releasing three different things by the end of the year. Kicking things off with this, then the quirky Hot Charity, and ending the year with the fucking cannonball of an album that is Scream, Dracula, Scream. A banner year, for sure.
The State Of Art Is On Fire is unique in its approach, as it was pressed on a 10" record where one side is played at 33rpm and the other at 45. As a result, the A side is a ton gritter than the B side, which actually goes as far to showcase a kinder, gentler RFTC, with some of Reis' most tuneful singing coming in the form of the song "Ratsize." As I just stated, the A side of this record absolutely slays, and it sounds like the band themselves might actually have been on fire while recording it. 3/4ths of the songs on the A-side even have some sort of reference to fire in the title. An aborted concept album, perhaps? And how about the part at the end of the A-side where everyone locks into the same riff? Chills.
Had the production been cleaned up a little more, there would be no reason any of these songs could not have appeared on Scream, Dracula, Scream. They're dually some of the harshest yet melodic things the band ever put to tape, and it's a shame that this release doesn't get more attention, in my opinion. I was lucky enough to snag a copy of it from Looney Tunes Records off the Hynes Convention Center T stop, and was thus pretty excited to write about it!
I'm really supposed to be writing a paper right now, but this album has made that basically impossible. I know I've been slacking on this blog for the past half-month, etc. Let's get into it.
I first saw and heard Cloak/Dagger when they were opening for Lifetime right after that band put out their phenomenal self-titled album (quick note, an album that stands just as high as Hello Bastards and Jersey's Best Dancers, making for one of the best 3-for-3 runs any band has had in my mind). They played to a slightly confused crowd, most of whom were actually there for The World/Inferno Friendship Society (another quick note: while I like the band, their shows are obnoxious experiences only because you're constantly getting slammed into by very nicely dressed ladies and gents who have no other desire beyond shoving you the fuck out of their way. Like, even before the band started playing). However, they had me sold.
Perplexingly, Cloak/Dagger contains one member of the underrated and defunct Renee Heartfelt, but they couldn't be any further from that band's effective Quicksand-aping. It's been stated a bunch of other times, but Cloak/Dagger somehow manages to slip into that comfortable slot between Hot Snakes and 80's hardcore. A couple of years after seeing them, I finally picked up their debut full length, We Are, at some used CD store that is currently slipping my mind. It would be months before it came up on my iTunes on my list of stuff to listen to.
Honestly, this is not the band I remembered seeing opening for Lifetime. It's a band that's like ten times better. A great deal of this credit goes to producer Chris Owens (who also handles guitar/vocal duties in the completely batshit insane Lords), a guy whose production work I have always admired. Owens really knows how to take a band and make them sound as raw as humanly possible without it devolving into a 2-track tape hiss/fuzz mess. The drums hit like punches to the stomach, and constantly seem to be on the verge of peaking, resulting in album that completely tramples the listener. Oddly enough, I see a lot of Owens in this band's vocal style, in which phrases are stretched out and given a little upwards inflection at the end of each line.
The first song on here had me a bit worried, as it initially seems like the biggest Hot Snakes rip of the bunch, namely the song "Braintrust" off of Audit In Progress. However, the aping quickly stops once "Sunburnt Mess" kicks in, which I swear could have been an unrecorded Minor Threat song. While there isn't really anything on We Are that sticks out head and shoulders above the rest, it's of little consequence. It's an album that doesn't give you time to breathe or think about things, where total destruction seems like its ultimate goal. There's hardly any room left between songs, and just when things seem like they're going to slow down a bit, after the mostly instrumental "JC Pays The Bills," "Hollywood Hills," immediately dispels that notion.
Basically, if I had to classify any album I've listened to in the past couple of weeks as a "complete and utter shredder," it would be this one. Hats off.