Things are always changing. Whether it’s realizing that the small town you came from now has a Starbucks and a mess of big-box retailers, or just getting a new haircut, the world is in flux in a million tiny ways. One has to imagine, then, that when Rival Schools returned to the post-hardcore landscape a decade after they had left it, they found it a very different place than the one they left behind. Emo had moved out of the basement and gotten a haircut, and was working at the mall now -- and making a good living at it to boot. The genre they had helped to popularize had taken on a life of its own, and while Rival Schools have certainly changed over the years, Pedals shows that their time away has certainly been a blessing for the band. Their sophomore album paints a picture of a band that has done a lot of growing up over the last ten years, replacing the fury and uncertainty of its benchmark debut with a slicker, self-assured sound. This change finds them delivering the same passion that they’ve always had, but in a way that feels more focused, as if the bandmembers are conveying exactly what they mean rather than just throwing everything out there and hoping something sticks. While this approach isn’t as energetic as it was on United by Fate, their new sense of melody works well for them. If Rival Schools had returned and tried to sound like the same band they were in 2001, there would have been the very real danger of it feeling disingenuous and forced, as if they were trying to recapture their glory days. Instead, the band is more relaxed and confident, and not afraid to experiment a little, adding dance flourishes on songs like “69 Guns” and fuzzy synths and organ stabs on “Choose Your Adventure.” These kinds of excursions make for an album that’s not merely good if you liked the music “way back when,” but is just a plain good listen from a band that’s as solid as ever.
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AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney