Hard to believe 10 years have passed, but Rival Schools have emerged with a second album.
Pedals comes as the band’s signature mark after reuniting in 2008, releasing their debut, United by Fate, in the summer of 2001. The present band roster, which includes the entire original cast, has finally followed up an album that helped influence a shift in alternative music for the early part of the last decade. They are a band that served as a tremendous influence for post-hardcore pioneers, and their sound is one noticeable in the works of bands such as Sparta, These Arms Are Snakes and even portions of Cave In's catalog, among others.
Where United by Fate was an album often ready to burst at the seams with energy, Pedals shows a more matured and controlled feel, even somewhat experimental at moments with bass tones and frequent use of acoustic guitars and distortion effects.
“Choose Your Own Adventure” opens with a cool synthesized bass, featuring minimal guitar work until about midway through the song, while “Eyes Wide Open” and “Shot After Shot” recapture the energy and sound from United by Fate and serve as a modern reprisal of their signature sound from a decade ago. “69 Guns” incorporates piano notes and an effect on the lead guitar reminiscent of U2's The Joshua Tree, and at times has a similar feel to some of the cuts off another project of frontman Walter Schreifels' doing, Walking Concert. Also noteworthy is that Schreifels’ raspy, unique vocal style and range is as strong as ever and has grown in the time away from the project.
Perhaps most satisfying from this offering is that the music comes off honest and spirited, rather than contrived or forced. It is clear early on the album that this isn't a reunion project based on generating a cash flow or bankroll. In this era of frequently contrived reunions and band break-ups that feel like they’re only separating for the eventual reunion bonanza, to see musicians get back together for the music itself, for themselves and for their fans is wonderfully refreshing.
While this record isn't likely to go down as an influential classic like their first release, it’s still a great listen and worth your time. While there are a few album tracks that aren't as strong as others, once Pedals begins to spin it feels like a natural and appropriate followup, worthy of adding to the band’s back catalog. Good things did indeed come their way.
Let's just hope that if this group has a third album in them that it’s released before 2021.