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 :
- Green Is Good
- Take One For The Team
- Where Iím From
- Be Real
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