Good Old War

Come Back As Rain

Written by: CM on 03/05/2012 18:42:57

It may have dropped two months ago, but Philadelphia's Good Old War, with their lush harmonies and sun-soaked folk-pop music, were simply meant for this time of year, and their latest record, evocatively titled "Come Back As Rain," is no exception to that rule. Two years ago, they released their self-titled album, a reasonably solid set of songs with a handful of terrific stand-outs that became summer soundtrack staples for die-hards and casual fans alike. Undoubtedly, the highlights here will see a very similar fate as the weather continues to warm up, but "Come Back As Rain" is a better record than its predecessor was, with bigger hooks, more fully realized arrangements, and most of all, with a higher standard of consistency that suggests that those who haven't checked this band out before should certainly do so now. Look no further than the tremendous opening trio, which presents the infectious lead-off single, "Calling Me Names," between a rousing introduction ("Over and Over") and a gorgeous, Beach Boys-esque piece of mid-tempo balladry ("Amazing Eyes"). Lead-singer Keith Goodwin has a way of delivering melodic lines that have an innately pleasant and soothing lilt to them, especially when cushioned by the vocal harmonies of his fellow bandmates, and those three tracks present that technique flawlessly.

There aren't any "bad" songs on "Come Back As Rain," but there's not a whole lot of variation in the sound either. Good Old War establish every cornerstone of their sound in the first three tracks, and then essentially aim for that same beachy atmosphere throughout the entire record. That's not to say that there aren't other terrific compositions on display here, though: "Not Quite Happiness" features some nicely textured guitar playing and a terrific vocal burst from Goodwin near the song's climax, while the electric guitars that cut through the mid-sections of "Touch the Clouds (Taste the Ground)" and "It Hurts Everytime" inject a welcome (but all too brief) sonic variation into the proceeds. The rapid-fire drum beat of "After the Party" lends the song a surging energy that is especially refreshing after 25 minutes of tracks with similar tempos, while the breezy singalong aesthetic of "Loud Love" would have made for a terrific closer (it's actually the penultimate track), especially with the way that the group's members pass around the lead vocal line throughout. Those are just a few highlights from what is actually a very solid collection of songs, but overall, there simply is not enough variation on display here, whether in instrumentation, vocal range, or tempo, and the result is that "Come Back As Rain" has a tendency to blend together, especially in its middle section.

"Come Back As Rain" is a worthwhile release from a talented trio of musicians; it's just not a great one. Those who have listened to the band in the past should know exactly what to expect, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, one just wishes that they had taken a few more risks. Still, as uplifting, summer-ready indie folk-pop, Good Old War do their jobs satisfactorily, with terrific vocals, crisp acoustic guitars, lively percussion (and occasional handclaps), and a true gift for melody. Those qualities will undoubtedly land any number of these songs on summer playlists and mixtapes (my own included) for anything from beach parties, to road trips, to bonfires, and maybe a few will even become favorites. But at the end of the day, "Come Back As Rain" still suggests the same thing I've thought about Good Old War from the first time I heard their music: that, as talented as they are and as many good songs as they are capable of constructing, they are one of those bands that is better in smaller, individual doses than in full album-length ones. It's a shame, because I think someday they could make a truly great record, but for now, is there anything really wrong with being a "playlist band?"

7

Download: "Over and Over," "Calling Me Names," "Amazing Eyes"
For The Fans Of: Sherwood, Days Away, Guster
Listen: facebook.com

Release Date 06.03.2012
Sargent House

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