Come Back As Rain by Good Old War (Sargent House, 2012. 38 minutes)
Good Old War is Keith Goodwin, Daniel Schwartz, and Tim Arnold. The band started after they recorded free demos in a late night session at a studio. Good Old War have played at the South by Southwest festival in Texas, and toured with both Anthony Green and Alison Krauss. They are currently signed on the label Sargent House.
Good Old War has been active since their 2008 release of Only Way To Be Alone. With an album in 2010, Good Old War didn’t change much. But, this new release, entitled Come Back As Rain provides evidence of a maturing, sophisticated sound. The band’s sound is beginning to develop in a positive direction. The song, “Better Weather” offers proof. The song features tight, three-part harmony, which once you hear it, you’ll understand why I think the band might be on their way to join the folk/Americana greats like Alison Krauss.
One downside with Come Back as Rain is that while it is definitely a folk/Americana album, it errs too much on the side of pop. Following the trail of many tight-harmony bands like Mumford & Sons, Good Old War tries, perhaps too hard, to gain popularity.
Given the band’s sound, Good Old War clearly spends time tightening vocal harmonies reminding the listener of the Beach Boys. Such a position is something I’m thankful for, but I think Good Old War lost the proper amount of depth. In a close listen to the lyrics “Better Weather” the band, in their three-part harmony, sings the following:
“Our little house at the top of the hill / Was made with love / And four tons of steel”
Yes, the lyrics rhythmically work; they are catchy. But the lyrics also drip with cheesiness that makes it hard for me to muster the strength to listen to the whole track despite the musical goodness behind it. To push the point a little further, in the track “Loud Love” the lyrics might induce vomiting.
“Things are getting dark, they’ve been scaring me / Now the moon’s gone, and I can’t see / Do you remember, when the sun was out? / Light was all around, we climbed a tree / High up in the tree, you made a nest for me”
And just a few lines later, these lyrics appear.
“Will you wait for me underneath the sea? / Can you hold your breath until I’m free?”
The harmonies are really nice, and the melodies are catchy, but the depth certainly isn’t there.
What’s more is the album repeats the same Americana-sounding track over and over, in roughly the same tempo. What makes Come Back as Rain okay for me as a listener, is that the tracks vary enough, and the songs are a fun listen. To end the album, the band plays “Present for the End of the World” which has a new drum beat, but toward the three-minute mark, the singer just repeats the same melody continuously, and needless to say that gets a little old.
I like Come Back As Rain. So what if it’s not the most thoughtful lyrically or the most varied of albums, I’m partial to well-sung harmony. The record also hums along, which gives me the impression that maybe the band knew that it would be a simple record. It’s my fear that despite Good Old War’s growth, the band is setting themselves up to be known as a band with all fluff and no substance. I think if the group continues to grow, this is a band to watch out for. However, if they stick where they’re at now, I would start to avoid them, as they might go the way of the Jonas Brothers (eew), a boy-band craze that few outside the stage of female adolescence enjoyed.
Verdict: 2 out of 5