I think it’s fair to say that Rival Schools took their time over their sophomore album. The best part of ten years to be precise. Which is somewhat understandable, after their 2001 debut United By Fate was lauded by many as an alt-rock triumph and a sign of big things to come.
Not that they arrived out of the blue – front man Walter Schreifels had been the brains behind 90s hardcore groups Guerilla Biscuits and Quicksand. So it was a disappointment to many when Rival Schools broke up in 2003, but jump five years later and they returned with the original line-up.
I’m happy to report that their new album Pedals, which was released last week, retains a lot of the New York band’s original appeal, whilst giving several nods to how the scene has evolved in their absence.
Opening track, Wring It Out is as anthemic as anything they’ve ever written, while Eyes Wide Open boasts a beefy riff to keep hardcore fans happy. Meanwhile, Choose Your Adventure shows how the band’s sound has evolved, with a swaggering bassline driving a much funkier tune, although lead guitarist Ian Love’s trademark solos remain as exciting and esoteric as ever.
In much the same way as on United By Fate, the album starts with five tracks that all boast immediate appeal, while the latter half of the album has more of slow-burning effect.
Where Pedals deviates from the first album’s template, however, is at the very end. One of the most impressive feats of the debut album was how it finished on two finely-crafted instrumental tracks, with Hooligans For Life in particular remaining a stunning musical achievement and the band’s most compelling live track to this day.
Instead of trying to repeat this trick, Pedals ends on a more modest and abrupt note, as The Ghost Is Out There sounds more like latter-day Weezer than anything else, suggesting unfinished business and certainly leaving us clamouring for more.
It’s good to have Rival Schools back, but even if they don’t stick around for long, it’s enough to just sit back and enjoy a record that was more than worth the ten-year wait.