United By Fate (Island)
by Tim Den
Finally, after two years (or more) of playing around the Northeast, and a few member shifts, mastermind Walter Schreifels’ (ex-Gorilla Biscuits, ex-Quicksand, co-owner of Some Records, producer extraordinaire for CIV, Hot Water Music, etc.) Rival Schools grace us with a record. And since his post-Quicksand outfit, World’s Fastest Car, offered no recording whatsoever, it has been half a decade since we last heard this man’s compositions. The wait has been too long! United by Fate is worth every bit of our patience. Everything that was flawless is back: His unique use of melody and dissonance, his ability to tap into the groovy essence of NYHC and take it to the next level (something that established Quicksand as the founder of an entire genre), the impeccably-timed mood/tempo shifts… plus a new grasp of modern radio-friendliness that only boosts the band’s potency.
Diehards will complain about anything less than a Gorilla Biscuits reunion, so let’s not even consider their cries of “sell out.” A well-written tune is a well-written tune, so what if the songwriter learned to harness all that’s worth learning from pop hooks? It only adds to the fire… A stomping beat can only carry you so far, but backed by the appropriate vocal line and – bam! – you’ve got a soul-stirring anthem that’ll raise a mob. Ever wonder how European soccer hooligans – as rough as they are – are driven by Manchester Britpop bands? Or why Irish pub melodies can bring scar-ridden bouncers to tears? It’s called melody. It can unite an army and make spirits fearless. Rival Schools might not form troops out of its listeners, but they understand this power; and their use of it is frighteningly convincing.
Opener “Travel by Telephone” will blow out your car speakers with Rock, “Undercovers On” will turn five minutes of your day into a vision of somber loneliness, and “My Echo” will have you throwing out all your pseudo-’60s garage-revival CDs in comparison. All the while they will claim the allegiance of your subconscious with crunching guitars, bad-ass backbeats, and The Power. You will be their slave.