Released Feb. 25th on Rumbletowne Records
I have to thank ozfactor for turning me on to this album. RVIVR are a quartet from Olympia, WA who formed in 2008. All their stuff is available for download on a pay-what-you-want basis from their label Rumbletowne Records. The Beauty Between is their second full-length and quickly became my most-listened-to album of the spring (“LMD” and “Spider Song” are already in my top 15 most-played tracks in iTunes). It’s 14 tracks of speedy, well-crafted, and ambitious pop-punk built around a dual guitar and vocal dynamic. It begins with the mostly-instrumental intro “The Seam”, which builds tension before the explosion of “LMD”.
The albums is very front-loaded; following the can’t-help-but-sing-along “LMD” there’s the incredible “Spider Song”, the slower simmer of “Old Dogs”, and then another barnburner in “Wrong Way/One Way”. This quartet of potential singles relies mostly on the dual vocals of singer/guitarists Erica Freas and Matt Canino. While Canino is capable and certainly passionate, Freas is the star here and the band’s not-so-secret weapon. Her leads on “Spider Song” in particular are just…damn great, is what.
The album’s midsection is somewhat calmer with a trio of midtempo numbers (“Paper Thin”, “Rainspell”, “Ocean Song”). Then comes RVIVR’s most ambitious effort: the 3-part, nearly 10-minute “Hunger Suite”. It builds from a slow first movement to crazy punk thrash in the second (complete with shredding solos), then back down again in the third. The record finishes up with the ambient noise piece “Elephant Song” and the marching-drum crescendo of “Party Queen”. It’s a wonderful ride all the way through.
I’ve read that RVIVR are pretty outspoken on the topic of gender politics. Canino certainly bears this out in interviews and in his miniskirts-and-short-shorts fashions (see attached music videos). As the band is, by design, composed of equal parts men and women, he’s definitely trying to keep a balance of male and female energy in the group. The group seems to strive to create gender-neutral and queer-friendly spaces, requesting queer- and women-fronted bands to open for them and not tolerating displays of sexism or violence at their shows. I can’t easily tell how often these topics come up in The Beauty Between due to lack of a lyric sheet, but here’s a sample lyric from “Wrong Way/One Way” that could be interpreted as a stance on gender and sexual identities: “Someone’s always trying to tell me what I am / Who to love and how to fuck and that it’s time to pay the rent … You can hate me now, but I’ll stick around / Don’t fit, full of shit, struggle with identity / Don’t fit, full of shit, I’m just trying to be”. The album’s title itself could reference finding beauty in between the traditional male/female gender binary, but again, it’s hard to say with certainty without sifting through all the lyrics. Either way, it seems the sentiments expressed can easily be translated over to a variety of other situations, thus it ultimately comes down to listener interpretation.
These days it’s rare for me to come across a new band that really sparks my enthusiasm; at this point in my punk rock adulthood I tend to stick with old favorites or at least familiar labels, and RVIVR are definitely a young, DIY type of band. But they won me over almost instantly with The Beauty Between, and I’m likely to catch their show when they come through in November.