It’s been nearly 25 years since Walter Schreifels’ first band, the highly-influential Gorilla Biscuits, made their appearance on the New York hardcore scene. Since then, Schreifels’ has been a part of various bands across several genres.
Whether he’s playing post-hardcore with Quicksand or arranging acoustic solo material, Schreifels has proven a versatile and prolific songwriter.
In the early 2000’s Schreifels rounded-up some of hardcore’s elite, such as Sammy Siegler on drums, Cache Tolman on bass and Ian Love on guitar, to form the indie rock, post-hardcore hybrid Rival Schools. The hardcore supergroup released United by Fate in 2001, an album that was palatable both to the underground community as well as a mainstream audience.
Unfortunately, the latter never embraced the record and soon thereafter Love departed from the group in 2002. The band started work on a second album that went unreleased before disbanding in 2003.
After a decade of recorded silence, Rival Schools return with Pedals. While it doesn’t pack the wallop United by Fate did, that’s not to say it is heartless. In fact, Pedals injects the emotive element often lacking in modern indie rock.
Pedals opens with the one of the album’s strongest tracks, “Wring It Out.” The song sees Rival Schools creating a sound that is often described by rock critics as “mature,” and in this case, it is quite apt.
Implementing tightly wound riffs that are coated in effects keeps the song’s aggression from becoming alienating, while Siegler and Tolman create an infectious groove. When the chorus hits, it creates an anthem around Schreifels’ top-notch vocals, “I want to wring it out/Every ounce/I want to do the right thing, when the right things counts,” it sticks in listeners’ heads without becoming grating.
As Pedals progresses, it is evident that Rival Schools has no interest in recreating the victories of United, but that it is far more interested in making a timely step forward. The whole of Pedals displays signs of each member’s past work without merely regurgitating it. Siegler’s work on the hi-hats in “69 Guns” sees him playing a dance beat that would never have been welcome during his time with Youth of Today, but the energetic performance certainly would have.
Over the course of Pedals’ 10-tracks, there are few instances where Rival Schools misses the mark. “Choose Your Adventure” is, without a doubt, the album’s weak point. It finds itself sandwiched between three incredible introductory offerings and the album’s powerful second-half. While it is one small error, the song’s annoying choruses make it worth skipping on each repeat listen.
Ten years is a long time between albums, but in this instance it was worth the wait. Rival Schools not only prove that they have lost nothing from that break, but that it’s gained a great amount of perspective. Pedals proves indie rock can be subtle and charming without losing its power and heart.
Rival Schools – Pedals Tracklist:
- “Wring It Out”
- “69 Guns”
- “Eyes Wide Open”
- “Choose Your Adventure”
- “Racing to Red Lights”
- “Shot After Shot”
- “A Parts for B Actors”
- “Big Waves”
- “Small Doses”
- “The Ghost Is Out There”