The first time I heard Good Old War, I heard them live - probably the best way to listen to them, in my opinion. Their harmonies, melodies and musical arrangements are way more impressive that way. They were opening for Guster and after their performance of "My Own Sinking Ship," I was sold on them. (All I have to say is, I'm glad I spent $25 on seeing a mediocre band with my friends so that I could discover a band that was anything but!) So the next day, when I first listened to Good Old War's Only Way to Be Alone and their self titled straight through, I thought, much to my chagrin, "Eh. Way more impressive live. There are a couple gems in there, I guess." But then, I synced it to my iPod and I listened to it in the car. I started getting some of the songs stuck in my head at work. Then I listened to it when I was on the elliptical. Then I listened to it on the car ride back home. And that's when I was officially hooked and started to actually look forward to the next time I could listen to it again. Come Back as Rain has not been an exception to this pattern.
For some reason, Good Old War's music seems to grow on you. Listening it for the first time, you don't hear the complexities that make this band great. The way Keith Goodwin, Tom Arnold and Dan Schwartz's voices blend together so harmoniously, for example. Or how at the end of a lyric in the chorus of "Looking For Shelter" on Only Way to Be Alone, the melody goes up a note instead of down. If you're a newbie to this Philly trio, I would suggest not giving up on them too quickly.
Anyway, Come Back as Rain!
The guys start off strong with "Over and Over" and "Calling Me Names." Both very reminiscent of "Coney Island" from Only Way to Be Alone - ridiculously catchy, simple but meaningful lyrics, intricate harmonies and makes you want to dance around your room. Then, probably one of my favorite Good Old War songs of their career so far, "Amazing Eyes," which is very Crosby, Stills & Nash-ish, if you ask me (specifically, their self titled debut...before that Young guy came along). Also, the line in "Amazing Eyes," "The right one's suspicious and the left one wants my love"? Musicians kill for a lyric like that! Another favorite of mine is "There's nothing like sleeping alone so much," from "Come Back Home."
Some other highlights include, "Touch the Clouds (Taste the Ground)," "It Hurts Every Time" and "Loud Love." You can tell that they've spent quite some time on this album. Really, every song on the album is polished and utterly flawless - they couldn't have recorded the songs more perfectly.
I know I've heard that their sophomore self titled disc isn't as well liked as Only Way to Be Alone, their breakout debut. I can see why that is, but I personally like both the same. However, I do feel that with the self titled, they weren't exactly sure where they were going with it. I think they were trying to still find their sound and experimented with a more folkier vibe on a couple of songs. Now that I've heard Come Back as Rain, I call the self titled their "transition album." Come Back as Rain brings their sound full circle and it also proves that they have staying power. If they keep making music like this, the band will be around for a lot longer than people think.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10