Rival Schools shows its mellower side

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Friday, March 4, 2011


Kindred spirits: Quicksand, Superchunk, Goo Goo Dolls

Show: Sunday at the Rock & Roll Hotel. Show starts at 8:30 p.m. 202-388-7625. www.rockandrollhoteldc. $12 in advance; $14 at the door.

"Pedals," the new release from the recently re-formed Rival Schools, shows that the band hasn't lost its knack for aggressive yet melodic music. But the veterans of the hard-core scene have mellowed a bit, and this album is full of songs about shedding bad elements in life and ushering in the good. On the inspirational opener "Wring it Out," Walter Schreifels sings, "I want to wring it out/Every ounce/I want to do the right thing/when the right thing counts."

Lyrics aside, the strength is in the guitars and their irrepressible, hook-filled melodies. There is an acoustic element to many of the songs, but effects pedals create occasional psychedelic undertones as on the funky, Red Hot Chili Peppers-like "Choose Your Adventure" and the rapid-fire "Eyes Wide Open." On many of the choruses, Schreifels's vocals are layered with a lead guitar that mirrors his voice, such as on the strongest track, "Shot After Shot."

The band slows down only twice: on "Racing to Red Lights" (despite its speed metaphors) and "Small Doses," the better of the two. Its stripped-down arrangement and acoustic guitar provide an ideal complement to Schreifels's vocals, in which an endearingly slight rasp makes his plea more earnest.

- Benjamin Opipari

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