Think of the Foo Fighters minus the glossy production with an apocalyptic pop...
Jack Smith 2002
The nu-metal tidal wave has brought, it seems, Top Ten kudos to every American band with tattoos and a Led Zeppelin collection, with increasingly diminishing returns. The likes of Linkin Park and Sum 41 have come up with effortless pop-metal anthems, but lurking behind them are an unimaginative horde of copyists with screeching amps but nowhere to go.
Rival Schools are the other side of the coin. Formed from various elements of the US hardcore underground, the four-strong band - singer / guitarist Walter Schreifels, drummer Sam Siegler, guitarist Ian Love and bassist Cache Tolman - might have the requisite buzzing guitars, but their album takes more from Eighties legends Mission Of Burma, or contemporary US indie bands like Wheat, or Built To Spill more than they do Limp Bizkit.
And when it's good it's blistering stuff; Schreifels' voice may have the grating roar of Kurt Cobain - especially on the tumbling "Holding Sand" and anthem-in-waiting "My Echo". But they're not a grunge rehash anymore than they are a skate-fashion wearing Nu Metal band. "My Echo" especially highlights Rival Schools' particular strength; infectious hooks, dont-overstay-your-welcome brevity and a trace of off-kilterness. When we're being told that the new face of hardcore is the laughingly cartoonish Andrew WK, a band like Rival Schools seem all the more refreshing.
Think of the Foo Fighters minus the glossy production (but with the tunes intact), and an apocalyptic pop sensibility, and you come some way to understanding what Rival Schools are about: emotionally intense, turbo-charged pop songs. The dawn of new nu-metal? Maybe.