Seems that Philadelphia is doing a good job churning out great three-piece bands. After my feature on their own Jukebox the Ghost and their new album, I heard Good Old War. The band is made up of Keith Goodwin, Dan Schwartz and Tim Arnold, who used sections of their last names to create their band’s name.
But that’s all just side information once we actually get into the music of their self-titled sophomore album. The album is bookended by short sketches of songs, “GOOD” and “WAR” with “OLD” in the middle that serve to show of the band’s simple ability to create infecting harmonies. “GOOD” in particular serves as an excellent album opener; short and sweet it’s an immediate introduction to their sound.
Bright melancholy. Coupling sad lyrics with bright tunes is nothing new in pop music and it’s usually coupled with the word “interesting” in some review or interview. So then what do Good Old War do that makes them avoid that trope? Well, nothing really. The biggest difference and Good Old War’s biggest draw is that their poppy tunes are genuinely infectious and most importantly full of energy. They don’t need to rewrite the formula if they do it as exceptionally well as they do.
My Own Sinking Ship
The second highlight is the first song that I heard by them, “My Own Sinking Ship.” An acoustic sing-song-y track, its simple melody and instrumentation are so easy-coming, it’s hard to think that this song took any effort at all to write. It’s also got the sad-man lyrical themes that permeate the album, though the actual sound of the album would give no indication of that. (“Why can’t I just be alright/Why can’t I just invade your mind?”)
“OLD” shows up earlier than expected, the fifth song on a fifteen song album, it doesn’t quite serve as the break between A and B. I particularly love this track because it perfectly captures the vibe of the Beatles in India. The Beatles influence is prevalent throughout, the band even takes a bit of “I’ve Just Seen a Face”–though the “lie die die” that they cop is used in a much more melancholy context in lieu of the rest of the song.
The album as a whole keeps everything short and sweet so that the songs grow quickly and avoid becoming overburdened by sing-song-y choruses (“Sneaky Louise”) or singular guitar lines (“Get Some”). Nothing gets boring and if you don’t like it, well it’ll be over soon. The only song that I felt itching to skip was “My Name’s Sorrow” which, despite it’s lovely chorus trips over its own lyrics in the verses.
I Should Go/Thinking of You
The Beatles-esque vibe of the album is jarringly turned to a Beach Boys-esque vibe on “I Should Go,” essentially the penultimate song. Starting with some heavenly harmonies, the whole of the band joins on the song for its entirety. It has a gorgeous melody reminiscent of the best of pop songs. It’s truly a hard song to ignore. The song is coupled with “Thinking of You,” which draws hard on the Beach Boys use of intricate harmonizing ala “God Only Knows.”
The album, in a way, tells a story and it’s one worth hearing.