Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Album Review: While We’re Young by Old Rivals (by Emma Prew)

If you are a regular reader of CPRW then you probably know that one of the ways we find some of our new favourite punk bands – often that we’ve never heard of before – is though the Discover feature on Bandcamp. It was through this feature, with the sub-genre of ‘folk punk’ selected, that I recently found a new band whose sound just clicked with me instantly. That band is Old Rivals, a four-piece from southern California. On Facebook they list their genre as pop punk but I would contradict that by labelling them more of an Americana-infused punk rock. They have two releases on their Bandcamp page, the most recent being a 6-track EP released in April of this year called While We’re Young. I immediately pushed it to the top of my review list.

The EP opens with a song of the same name, While We’re Young. Kicking off with a steady drumbeat, before the electric guitars and harmonica join the mix, Old Rivals have me hooked after the very first verse of their first song. The song is in parts nostalgic but it is also about the band’s way of life in general, being wayfarers of their hometown and simply living and breathing music. ‘Remember buying our first record, Playing it again over and over, We learnt more from a 3-minute record, Than we ever did in school.’ Music is life. The second song on While We’re Young is called The Darkness. It keeps up the pace and ensures that my head doesn’t stop nodding along. There is some more excellent harmonica (to be fair, any harmonica is excellent to me) at the start of this track before the vocals even start. This upbeat number also features Bree Fondacaro for alternating verses, as well as harmonies on the chorus. It’s nice to have softer country-style voice to compliment Mark De La Torre’s gruffer lead vocals and adds an extra element to the Old Rivals sound.

Are you thinking that it might be time for a slower-paced song now? Nope! Miles Away is as fast and foot-stomping-ly furious as the previous tracks. This is another affirmative song about trying to deal with being apart – miles apart – from someone that you care about in the best way possible. ‘When you’re miles and miles away, Keep me in your heart my friend.’ About two-thirds of the way through Mile Away, after a harmonica solo, there is a great big reverb-y guitar solo that I’d love to see played live. The next song begins where the last left off, with some big guitars that wouldn’t be out of place on a Gaslight Anthem record. And as The Gaslight Anthem, one of my favourite bands of all time, are no more for the foreseeable future, I am very happy to hear their likeness in a new band. Now Or Never is an excellent song about friendship and being there for someone no matter what. ‘I’ll tell you one thing, No matter where you go, I hope that you find what you’re looking for. When you’re tired and you’re weak, I’ll be right there to pick you up, You’ve always got a place to call your home…’

For You As Many Words is a song with a sadder tone than its predecessors. This sadness is conveyed in its slower pace with some stripped back acoustic guitars. Although this song is about a lost loved one and not being able to do anything to change that, it is also about thinking of them fondly and reflecting on the positive impact they had on your life. ‘And I can write a hundred thousand words, Still none of them will ever bring you back, And all I can do is remember those good times, Until then I see you when I die my friend.’ There is also quite a funky, yet subtle, bassline for the breakdown in the middle which was a bit of a surprise. The last song on While We’re Young is called Say You Won’t and it gives Old Rivals a chance to crank the volume up once more for a fists-in-the-air style Americana-punk anthem. Say You Won’t is about seizing the day and enjoying each moment. This definitely ends the EP on a more positive note after the sombreness of the previous track (not that there’s anything wrong with sad songs). The line ‘Take it or leave it, What are you gonna do now?’ seems like a fine way to end the song and indeed the EP.

I was highly impressed by While We’re Young, especially having never heard of Old Rivals before. They’ve recently played with the likes of Spanish Love Songs and The Penske File, who are both favourites of ours at CPRW, and are hopefully on track to bigger and better things. It might be a bit much for me to hope they visit us over this side of the pond but perhaps I will catch them at a future Fest? 

You can stream and download While We’re Young here (it’s also on Spotify) and find Old Rivals on Facebook here, where they list their influences as Against Me!, Bouncing Souls, The Gaslight Anthem, Hot Water Music, Tom Petty, Rancid and Bruce Springsteen  – what’s not to like? (They also mention Bob Dylan but I’m not so fussed on him. 7 out of 8 ain’t bad.)

This review was written by Emma Prew.