May 23, 2014

That Was The Show That Was: Walter Schreifels | Great Scott | 21 May

Walter Schreifels and band, May 21, 2014

Well, this certainly isn't where we expected to find Walter Schreifels. We don't mean physically, of course -- after all, there he was, hanging out at the sound booth before the show in his grey hoodie, and there he was up on stage plugging in a weird vintage guitar and rocking out. No, we mean stylistically. After blazing trails through hardcore, post-hardcore, indie rock and acoustic folk-pop, Mr. Schreifels has decided to go deep with the latest iteration of his solo guise, back to some of the early sounds that presumably he and many of us grew up with: sludgy, blues-descended proto-metal, a la Black Sabbath and its many followers. And, like we said, it was a surprising place to find Schreifels stylistically, not only because the choice finds Schreifels breeching the barrier represented by the punk revolution of 1976 and 1977 (and the subsequent, perhaps even more crucial, post-punk permutations), but also because working within a proto-metal, groove-oriented idiom seems to impinge somewhat on Schreifels' extraordinary gift for writing melodies. Even so, Schreifels and crew's fearlessly pure, carefree performance of all new material Wednesday night at Great Scott in Boston before an appreciative throng was a delight to behold.

We say fearlessly pure because Schreifels made no effort to curry favor with the crowd by playing anything from his deep, deep catalogue, which stretches back to 1987 when he began writing songs for New York Hardcore legends Gorilla Biscuits. Instead, Walter succinctly -- and confidently -- introduced a series of new songs (with his typicaly boundless charm, of course), one after the other, about 10 in total. That's about as many songs -- we'd venture -- as might comprise a forthcoming album? A planned Schreifels solo set for years has been referred to under the title Jesus Is My Favorite Beatle (see third item here), and it could be that is what fans were treated to the other night. Song titles we can recollect from the show include "Basic Cable," "Hyacinth" and "36 Chambers." We previously reviewed a solo performance by Schreifels right here in Sept. 2011.

Schreifels' present band features ex-members of New York hardcore mainstays Bold, Cults and Youth Gone Mad (although second guitarist Paul Kastabi looked a LOT like Styx' James Young), and Wednesday's show was the third of four dates (the final date was last night in Philadelphia at The Barbary) lined up to showcase this new band and the new material. One very enjoyable aspect of the set was how fresh and exciting the experience of playing the music seemed to be for Walter and the band. There was a lot of glee shared in quick glances between drummer Drew Thomas and Schreifels after many of the songs, and while there was a negligible amount of tentativeness, as well, that only added to the thrill of the show. For the most part the band executed some very tight dynamic changes, while also slowing down to work grooves and establish atmosphere with some more improvisational solo and noise sections. It's a far cry from the light, amazing pop songs on the 2010 solo set An Open Letter To The Scene, which we reviewed here, and which we named our second favorite record of 2010, and which you may stream via the embed below. But the fact that Schreifels can so deftly and convincingly shift styles without losing any of the appeal inherent in his songwriting is a tribute to his skill as a musician, and puts him in a rarified strata of songwriter populated by Clicky Clicky favorites like Kurt Heasley, among very few others. We eagerly await an album announcement.

Walter Schreifels: Interzizzles | Facebook | Soundcloud | Twixels

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