There are some bands/artists that make it a point to forge their own path; come up with something new to bring to the table. Then there are artists that don’t reinvent the wheel, but rather add their own take to something tried and true. One of the great aspects of music is that there is no right or wrong way to go about it. For the Philadelphia’s own, the Good Old War they are the latter. They write 1970’s pop/rock music with hints of indie, folk, and country thrown in for good luck. Signed to independent label, Sargent House, Good Old War has released two full lengths and a split EP with increasing success. However, their first record, Only Way to Be Alone has been received more favorably than their self titled release over the years.
With their third full length release, Come Back as Rain the Good Old War is not changing the style up, but they are getting back to simpler song writing that they sometimes got away from on their last release. Album opener, “Over and Over” starts with a mellow acoustic guitar, minimalist drumming, and the trio harmonizing throughout. Immediately following is the album’s first single, “Calling Me Names” which features a clever guitar opening from Daniel Schwartz. The song is upbeat and features not only one of the catchiest choruses on the record, but it is also one of their catchiest choruses, period. The strongest elements to this song are the abundance of vocal layers harmonizing at different pitches. This is vintage Good Old War; songs that are vocally driven. Make no mistake, these are three talented musicians, but they are incredibly talented in the vocal department and they really play that up.
“Amazing Eyes” follows next and is a stark contrast from their lead single. While their single is upbeat, this particular track is more of a ballad-esque style that almost feels like an acoustic Foreigner song at times. Simply put, it is a good romantic song that features a different side to the band. The fourth song, “Better Weather” is perhaps the strongest song on the record. It is upbeat and has harmonization almost the whole time. The track bleeds early Eagles (pre Joe Walsh), Simon and Garfunkel, and Crosby, Stills, Nash. It is a fun song that is nearly impossible to not start toe tapping or bobbing your head to.
“Can’t Go Home” closes out the first half and has a bit less of the harmonies while mostly featuring Keith Goodwin’s accessible voice instead. The first half of the record is about as close to perfection as one could expect from the band. None of the songs are remotely skip worthy, with some of those songs being among the best songs the band has written. While the second half is quite good, it is not as good as the first half. “Touch the Sky (Taste the Ground)” is perhaps the song that sticks out most on the second half, while “Life of the After Party” and “Loud Love” are impressive cuts as well. Perhaps the biggest knock on the record is the album closer, “Present for the End of the World.” While not a bad song by any means it is pretty repetitive and may have been better served as a b-side. The great thing about the Good Old War and their records is that it does not matter when you are introduced to the band. Any record is the perfect place to start, including this record.
Come Back as Rain is an overall really impressive album. It is one of the better releases thus far in an extremely competitive year. The Good Old War is a band that knows what their sound is and knows how to deliver while finding different ways to grow as well. If you like acoustic guitars and impressive harmonization, then you will enjoy this release along with past releases. In a time when pop music is mostly done through various electronic means, the Good Old War remind us not only what pop music sounded like a few decades ago, but also what was so great about it to begin with. Please, do yourself a favor and check this record out asap and then go check their past records out as well.
Rocks if you like: Simon and Garfunkel, Crosby Stills Nash, early Eagles, early Beatles, and acoustic pop with folk, indie, and country influences.
Stream the entire record here.