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. "Listen now/A sound that CAN'T BE STILL!" hollers Rival Schools' 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 Rival Schools' 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 Queens Of The Stone Age

repeatedly claim, you suspect that, live, Rival Schools want to make girls dance as much as they make boys tussle in the pit. They're significantly groovier tonight than the Rival Schools' previous exploits might suggest. All the Rival Schools 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 Rival Schools' is a sound that won't be stilled, it won't easily be pinned down either. The energy is raw, but the Rival Schools' fury has forethought, and their chunky riffs can double back on themselves with sour squeals. Songs like 'The Switch' are often reminiscent of Nirvana, others are kissing cousins to Fugazi. But then, there's guitarist Ian Love triggering atmospheric guitar wisps, chimes and dubby whirrs like he's been listening to Spiritualized (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 ("You say you're doing fine/But that's not what it looks like"). 'World Invitational', meanwhile, is a wise dose of self-help whose "Let it go" chorus is as catchy as it is touching.

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

Kitty Empire

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