ALL MUSIC GUIDE
Walter Schreifels used to be a very hard-rockin' dude, the leader of loud, hard bands like Quicksand and Rival Schools. His new band, Walking Concert, takes a very different route. Leaving behind the raging guitars and vocal shredding, the group is just as emotionally involved and exciting, only now it's a pop band with pop hooks that stick deep and leave wounds when you yank them out. Traces of early Costello, classic Pavement, and Ted Leo crop up here and there, and so do glimmers of bands like Spoon,the Wedding Present, the Kinks, and Guided by Voices too. Not to say that Walking Concert are derivative. They just follow in some large footsteps. On their debut, Run to Be Born, they are tight, tough, sweet, and tender. The record bounces back and forth between jumping rockers like "Studio Space," "What's Your New Thing," and "But You Know...It's True" and tear-stained ballads like "Run to Be Born," "Girls in the Field," and "The Animals." There are also tracks like "Calypso Slide," with its loose, street-corner epic feel, or the acoustic guitar and string quartet "A Lot to Expect," which aches like mid-'60s Dylan -- tracks that sound like Walking Concert could easily break out of the indie rock scene and just be a great rock band. If they do, it will be down to Schreifels. He's got a perfect rock & roll voice, very immediate and affecting, at times spilling into wild bursts of joy, other times whispering secrets in your ear. The guitars are perfect, the arrangements live and real, but what makes Walking Concert the kind of band they are is his voice and his songs. Longtime fans of Schreifels and his hard rock groups may think this record is too soft or poppy, but too bad for them. Anyone who likes their music lean, exciting, heartfelt, and intelligent will be rejoicing about his conversion. Long live pop and amen to Walking Concert!
Question: What do Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand and Walking Concert have in common?
Answer: Guitarist and principle songwriter Walter Schreifels!
If it hadn't been for the press sheet I would have had no clue that this was what good old Walter is up to now. If I am to believe what I have read; a photocopied typed page which accompanied this cd, his new band is a three piece called Walking Concert, and their new album is called "Run to be Born." Given my only knowledge of his previous projects, I am having trouble believing what I have read. Am I being deceived?
There is not even a trace of hardcore to be found on this album. At times it would be a stretch to say that these songs' tendrils even extend into the world of punk. Influence for this album seems to ride on the shoulders of Elvis Costello and The Jam. Contemporary comparisons are perhaps, Weezer, Ted Leo, or Jets to Brazil (if Blake were ever willing to sing a happy song).
The guitars are upbeat and jangly. The singing is excellent. The lyrics are well written, about girls and love. I must admit that after hearing this I have a newfound appreciation for Walter Schreifels' talent as a songwriter. After being in two of the most influential New York hardcore bands and then one of the most influential post-hardcore bands, he's come a long way to Walking Concert, but proves he can write a pop song as successfully as a hardcore song. I can't imagine though that this album will cause anywhere near the splash that his previous bands have caused, though he is probably in store for a better looking fan base and there is always the chance for getting some hot dates.
I'll hold on to my Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits and Quicksand records, and the memories they invoke. If you were a fan of any of those bands don't run out and buy this record simply because of Walter's name. If, like Walter, you have outgrown your hardcore past and are more interested in catchy and well crafted pop/rock songs, Run to be Born is an album that probably belongs in your collection.
But here's a warning: you may want to instantly paint over or discard the god-awful cover art upon purchase.
Like it describes in their bio from Some Records, Walking Concert means nothing more than a boy cruising the streets with a set of headphones attached and lost in a quadraphonic dream. Literally though, Walking Concert is the new project from Walter Schreifels of Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand, and Rival Schools fame. Each of those projects was different and that holds no different for Walking Concert, as it's probably his most diverse project to date. Shedding away any and all hardcore influences for this record, Walking Concert take a stab into the world of pure indie rock.
Walter Schreifels has gained quite a bit of a reputation throughout the years, and rightfully so for all of his projects, if anything for Quicksand, which still rates as one of the more underrated bands of the 90's. Regardless though it all Schreifels has managed to make music that is good regardless of what style he is dwelling in. Walking Concert Run to be Born for the most part is a straight out indie rock album that features 14 tracks of jangley guitar driven rock. What's pretty interesting about Run to be Born is just how simplistic the songs are with just a very laid back and mellow approach to each one. The album opens up with what I suspect is the opening single for the album titled "What's Your New Thing". It's pretty representative of what is to follow as it's nothing more than an upbeat pop/rock tune that doesn't necessarily capture the listener, but succeeds in that its got a great melody. That is something that remains pretty common through out Run to be Born. All the songs are relatively short. A lot of the times the songs can sound something like old Rival Schools cast offs or they are actually really good structured pop songs. That's really the only noticable consistant flaw in Run to be Born. Thankfully Schreifels and company shine more so than they do flop and on a whole Run to be Born stands to be a pretty impressive pop/rock album. It's nothing impressive by any means, but still it's honest, it's melodic, and the good outweighs the bad.
Walking Concert wouldn't be nearly as captivating if it weren't for Schreifels' vocals, something that wasn't as much of a focal point on previous projects. Schreifels gives charm to these songs with his shaky and off kilter voice. It fits right along perfectly with the way each song is loosely structured. Where it shines the most is in songs like "Girls in the Field" and "What Does Your Heart Say". In the past all of these things would have never been found in a project that Schreifels was heading. It's easily one of the things that set Walking Concert even farther apart from everything else he has done.
Run to be Born is not something that will pull you in at the first listen or possibly even the second. It's definitely not a record that will impress on any technical level. What this album does achieve though is it proves that people can still make a good old fashion rock album. In the times where everybody and their mother wants to make it big doing garage rock revival, this is kind of a breath of fresh air as you know it's an honest attempt to produce what is some good music with some friends and electric guitar. For those who have listened to everything Walter Schreifels has done, then you'll probably easily fall in love with this, as it's some of his finest work since Quicksand disbanded. For those who haven't, well, it's a good simple rock album and if given a couple listens is sure to appeal on some level.
"What's Your New Thing?" - Walking Concert Kinda chunky, kinda poppy, and kinda edgy, just the way a good two-and-a-half-minute song should be. Walking Concert's founder, Walter Schreifels, has a long indie-rock history behind him by now, having started the bands Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand, and Rival Schools before launching Walking Concert. Um, don't worry, I never heard of them before either, as I have never been musically drawn to the so-called "hard core" side of alternative rock. But apparently Schreifels was well-regarded in those circles, and something of a wunderkind, as he was but 16 when Gorilla Biscuits launched; the guy's still in his early 30s at this point. His background, in any case, brings an undeniable energy-burst to this likable little song, which displays an affectionate awareness of some of rock'n'roll's best pop, both older (early Who and Kinks and even David Bowie) and newer (the Replacements, Guided By Voices). "What's Your New Thing?" is found on the band's debut CD, Run To Be Born, released earlier this month on Some Records; the MP3 is on the label's web site. Thanks to 3hive for the head's up on this one.
I've always enjoyed Walter Schreifels and the impressive list of powerful and influential punk and post punk bands he has fronted over the years — Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand and Rival Schools — and now with his new stripped-down, throwback (way back!) offering, I must admit, I love him… well, his music to be more precise and less stalkerish. Like Cheney loves oil and Madonna loves attention, I am completely enamored with this vibrant and completely unexpected album.
It seems that guitarist/vocalist Schreifels decided to take a well-deserved break from bringing the punk and bringing the noise which he has done so for the last 20-odd years in fine fashion. In his prior bands, Walt was always fighting to be heard over the epic wails and massive waves of guitar/bass/drums and now with his new group — Ryan Stratton (bass and vocals) and Jeffrey E. Johnson (guitar and vocals) — the battle is over. This new toned-down sound allows his smoldering and breathy vocals room to shine — gently punctuating the spirited and jangly music that meshes the best of today's low-fidelity simplicity and jangle pop with the innocence of early 60s Kinky Brit rock.
The snap-cracklin' "What's Your New Thing" (download MP3) kicks off the disc with a bang, offering the CD's most catchy chorus that peaks with a warbling falsetto you will no doubt try to emulate as you sing along. The background la-la-las sound straight off an early Who LP, one where a mop-topped Townshend wore giant ruffles under his velvet blazer and young doe-eyed Moonie looked like he would never in a million years die a bloated bag of drugs. Can't wait for Jason Schwartzman to play him in the movie!
While some of the lyrics are pretty straightforward and tell a neat little story like "Run To Be Born," some leave me thinking, "What the..?" I dig that. Schreifels' gentle wordplay in songs like "Aluminium," (pronounced like a proper English gent in keeping with the overall feel) and the healthy dose of animal references show how much fun he and the band seem to be having.
The whole CD is solid, flowing nicely with slow jams like "A Lot to Expect" and speedy little ditties like "But You Know… Its True" and "Studio Space" that venture into a crazed, hyper-speed area where Guided By Voices occasionally likes to travel. The I-want-you-back plea "Audrey" will leave you wondering just "what the hell is she so mad about?" and also yearning for a delicious breakfast.
"Girls in The Field" is a very pretty song. Its shows off Walt's troubadour vocal stylings, lush and sweet, with just a hint of danger. You can almost picture a "Wear Your Love Like Heaven"-era Donovan strumming a guitar at a lake with Twiggy dancing at his side and animated squirrels and sparrows swaying joyfully and adding in the dreamy backing vocals. I picture that a lot.
More prettiness comes along with "What Does Your Heart Say?" Again, don't hurt yourself trying to match Walt's high notes when he delivers the dulcet chorus "What Does Your Heart Say?" Beatlesque is a much overused word (and not just by me) but you can't help feel the majesty and influence as the song undulates serenely and quietly builds to a symphonic and satisfying ending.
"The Animals" comes closest to the sound of the mighty Rival Schools, powered along with crisp drumming that steers you through the surreal and unsettling amusement park/safari ride. Here you get to enjoy some of Schreifels' best imagery and humor: "The food at the food court is the only real risk we are taking"
"Imagination's gone Knieval, fight the evil on the Batman/ Caped Crusaders need directions, find me" "Hands Up" is a great rollicking sing along penned by Johnson that borrows the chorus "I got my hands up in the air/Come and take what you want I won't do anything" from a classic Soul Side song, "Problems Faced When Traveling." Now that kind of old-school shout-out keeps this aging, cranky bloke in a lovey, chipper mood.
"Run To Be Born" is exactly what this high-anxiety world needs right now: simple, heartfelt tunes that take you back to a happy place. Walt turned up to 11 is always awe inspiring, and with this stellar debut, he proves dialing it down and turning off the distortion doesn't hurt a bit. Come feel the love.
If it's Tuesday, that means Walter Schreifels must have a new band. Having run through hardcore (Youth of Today), poppy hardcore (Gorilla Biscuits), post-hardcore metal (Quicksand) and post-metal pop (Rival Schools), he's now made his way to post-pop punchiness with Walking Concert. Run To Be Born is the kind of record that you know Schreifels has wanted to make for years – all glistening sugar chords, bright-eyed swagger and just-dark-enough lyricism – but couldn't because that's just not what heavy dudes do. Apparently emboldened by the warm reception Rival Schools received from Quicksand devotees, Schreifels upped the pop wattage for his new band and, just in case you don't get the point, he sticks in a cover of T. Rex's "Mustang Ford" to make it abundantly clear. If there's such a thing as "wallflower glam," Schreifels has it nailed on this disc.
- Jason Ferguson
Walter shows up musician-on time, which is to say he is somewhat late. Despite that fact, I see that his new stuff is punctual. At a time when music needs to take a turn, Walter makes a sharp left. I know he has been working on this project for a bit; I heard some of the demos early on. I ask him about the rotation of members and line-up changes. "I do not consider it line-up changes. That would not be the right way to put it. It has not really existed until now," he says. "I have been trying to find this thing. This is the thing that is going to come out and people can buy. I had a couple of different drummers play on the record."
Already I can see that this is a different attitude from what he has shown in the past. Walter confirms, "I wrote about 95 percent of all the stuff in my bands. I was definitely playing off of the people in the band. I am thinking of how this person plays and I am creating things that play to that person's strengths. Those people will rise up and make a contribution and that will be the band."
This time there is a spin on that formula. "I wanted to do something where I just played acoustic guitar and had all the songs and people could just like play along to it. Not where I am developing it with anybody."
In the past, line-up changes seemed to cripple Walter's various bands. I asked him about Rival Schools. "With Ian quitting the band and stuff like that, it didn't help. It got me thinking I have to do something else, and succeed or fail, it will be something different and something interesting. That is what I set about doing. I didn't want it to be as band-like."
Many fans of Walter's past projects have probably listened to those CDs and didn't really know it was almost all Walter behind them. In my opinion, Walter is a visionary when it comes to music. I see him as someone like David Bowie or even Madonna. Of course, not on the same scale, but in the sense that all of them are constantly re-inventing themselves. It is only now that he is stepping into that position of being recognized as the creator of his music, the same music multitudes of fans have loved over the years.
First there was Gorilla Biscuits. Their no-nonsense New York hardcore aggression fueled your awkward junior high years, giving you a sort of empowerment that often evades newly teenage youth. Then in high school, you had Quicksand, whose melodic take on hardcore challenged you when you grew out of straight-edge. In college, you had Rival Schools who brought a pop sensibility to the angular aggression of Quicksand. You needed something catchier and a little bit more fun, and United by Fate did the trick. It may sound funny, but it makes perfect sense. Walter Schreifels' career paralleled landmark periods of my life, as it most likely did for many others similar in age. But now that we're all out of college and need a friendlier pop album to listen to on our iPods, Walter heeded our call with his new band, Walking Concert.
Run to Be Born, Walking Concert's debut album, is a logical progression from where Rival Schools left off. Schreifels has always been a great songwriter, but now it seems he's finally comfortable with the songs on their own, unmasked by layers of noise and distortion. Run is very much the type of album you'd expect from Schreifels, as his songwriting is similar to that of his previous bands, though more concise and, some would say, mature. And in some respects, that would be accurate. Yet there's so much energy on the album, the former Quicksand frontman could have easily written it when he was a teenager.
"What's Your New Thing?" and "Aluminium" give the album a power pop punch, which suggest a less Thin Lizzy influenced Ted Leo or Fountains of Wayne with roots in New York hardcore. However, "But You Know…It's True" is a straightforward, one-minute punk song that sounds like Elvis Costello played at twice the speed. "The Animals," though led by acoustic guitar and piano, has a heavy Rival Schools-like beat that proves there's still a bit of the old Walter Schreifels in this batch of songs, though a Britpop flavored tune like the irresistible "Audrey" would suggest otherwise.
Schreifels tries his hand at some ballads here, as well, the most notable of which is "What Does Your Heart Say?" The track recalls Superchunk, only sung with a slightly deeper voice than Mac MacCaughan's. And just for fun, Schreifels throws in a cover of Marc Bolan's "Mustang Ford."
Walking Concert is a natural progression for Walter Schreifels. Though he still retains some aspects of his hardcore past, he's moved on to new things, and we're fortunate for that. As long as there are trends, Schreifels will be far ahead of them.
Similar albums: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Tyranny of Distance
Superchunk - Come Pick Me Up
Rival Schools - United By Fate
- Jeff Terich