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Rival Schools & Onelinedrawing
Rival Schools United By Onlinedrawing
Some Records

The split EP is a mainstay of indie rock and continues to be an effective marketing tool that introduces fans of one band to the music of another. Rivals Schools United By Onelinedrawing is a new twist on this tried and true format. Instead of giving a few tracks each to the artists represented, this EP gives the two entities a chance to collaborate and form a new ensemble for the sake of a single record.

Rival Schools is a kind of NYC hardcore supergroup, comprising former members of some of the cityís hottest 80s and 90s hardcore bands. Singer and guitarist Walter Schreifels started out with Gorilla Biscuits and went on to blaze new trails with the late, lamented Quicksand. Bassist Cache Tolman played in the unique Iceburn. He also played in CIV briefly with drummer Sam Siegler, whose CV includes Gorilla Biscuits, Youth Of Today, and Shelter, to name a few. Ian Love, second guitarist, has played with Burn and Die 116. Quite an impressive lineup, and one that manages to avoid the self-indulgent pitfalls of the supergroup format. Together, Rival Schools creates an aggressive, melodic blend of 90s post-hardcore and new millennium rock. Itís a more song-based and melodic approach compared to the hooky and riffy rock of Quicksand.

Onelinedrawing is the one-man show for former Far leader and current New End Original leader, Jonah Matranga. This project is distinguished by a quiet, lo-fi sound and a focus on songwriting and lyrical sophistication with a decidedly emo slant. Aside from being one of the current heartthrobs of the indie scene, Matranga is also a talented lyricist, composer and performer.

These two unlikely musical partners came together in the studio to record the six tracks that this record comprises. One listen, however, is enough to tell you that this is fundamentally a Rival Schools record. The musical flavor of the record has far more in common with their hard-hitting gestalt than with Onelinedrawingís more laid-back approach. Matranga, in fact, only appears on two of the tracks. His songwriting and vocal approach are an excellent addition to the Rival Schools sound, and the band manages to tone down just a tad (Sieglerís drumming is most noticeably restrained) to accommodate Matrangaís unique style. Schreifels even seems inspired by Matrangaís vocals as he takes his own stab at a more understated style on the Americana hometown homage "Where Iím From".

The best tracks on the record, however, are the straight-ahead Rival Schools tracks. "Take One For The Team" is a driving track about generosity and altruism. The gritty production highlights the churning of the guitars and the slight snarl in Schreifelsís voice. The shift to Jonahís uncertain vocal on "Always" is shocking at first, but he hits his stride within a few seconds as Rival Schools buoys him through a classic Onelinedrawing song about insecurity and frustration. This is followed by the aforementioned touching track "Where Iím From" on which Schreifels affects a Jeff Tweedy-esque twang and Rival Schools provides a loping backdrop for his endearing sentimentality. Matrangaís voice returns for the last time on the stunning "Be Real". This track combines the two styles most effectively, with Jonahís vulnerable voice standing out against a downright lazy (in a good way) instrumental track provided by Rival Schools, and including some of the most effective guitar work on the record. Finally, "Contraire" closes out the record in the by-now-familiar Rival Schools style. This track sounds like an outtake from the sessions for Rival Schools full-length, United By Fate. Though this particular track was actually recorded before United By Fate, it clearly indicates the direction in which the band was to head. The production on this track is also the strongest of any track on the record.

In fact, my primary criticism of this record is that the production is spotty. Often the mix of vocals and guitars seems just a little off, and there is often an oddly hollow sound to the tracks. One gets the sense that the record was both recorded and mixed in a bit of a hurry. This is a shame since there is some awfully good music lost in the murky mix. Fortunately, the music is strong enough to cut through the murk and emerge gleaming and bright.

ó Eryc Eyl

Track Listing :

  1. Green Is Good
  2. Take One For The Team
  3. Always
  4. Where Iím From
  5. Be Real
  6. Contraire

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