Rival Schools : Philadelphia Theater Of The Living Arts

Sometimes, the reviewer's job is just too easy...

Sometimes, the reviewer’s job is just too easy. [I]”Listen now/A sound that CAN’T BE STILL!”[/I] hollers [a]Rival Schools[/a]’ Walter Schreifels on the sublime ‘Used For Glue’, their killer forthcoming single. ‘Used…’ isn’t just one of the most galvanising moments of tonight’s show – it also supplies a great description of [a]Rival Schools[/a]’ music. Tonight, they unleash song after song of surging guitar rock imbued with an irresistible momentum. There’s no let-up: keening, sinuous songs like ‘Travel By Telephone’ follow ‘Good Things’ anthemic pop with barely a pause. Their engaging, animated frontman ‘Walter jigs around, loose-limbed, surprisingly graceful – if he wasn’t born with a guitar strapped to his chest, he certainly grew up with one – pouring his very heart into every phrase.

Like [a]Queens Of The Stone Age[/a]

repeatedly claim, you suspect that, live, [a]Rival Schools[/a] want to make girls dance as much as they make boys tussle in the pit. They’re significantly groovier tonight than the [a]Rival Schools[/a]’ previous exploits might suggest. All the [a]Rival Schools[/a] personnel come from the shirtless moshpits of New York HC and post-hardcore; Walter, in particular, is best know for his seminal last band, Quicksand. But if the [a]Rival Schools[/a]’ is a sound that won’t be stilled, it won’t easily be pinned down either. The energy is raw, but the [a]Rival Schools[/a]’ fury has forethought, and their chunky riffs can double back on themselves with sour squeals. Songs like ‘The Switch’ are often reminiscent of [a]Nirvana[/a], others are kissing cousins to [a]Fugazi[/a]. But then, there’s guitarist Ian Love triggering atmospheric guitar wisps, chimes and dubby whirrs like he’s been listening to [a]Spiritualized[/a] (and he has).

Best of all, though: this is music that’s truly moving – in the sense of people jumping around like spawning salmon, and in the deeper sense of songs that are emotionally resonant. ‘Undercovers On’ comes as a slow, drawn-out dissection of an intimate friendship ending ([I]”You say you’re doing fine/But that’s not what it looks like”[/I]). ‘World Invitational’, meanwhile, is a wise dose of self-help whose [I]”Let it go”[/I] chorus is as catchy as it is touching.

It really is this simple: whichever way you slice it, [a]Rival Schools[/a] are great. Let yourself be moved.

Kitty Empire