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Pennsylvania trio Good Old War have returned with their third album, Come Back As Rain, with new experiences on their mind. Known for their upbeat sound and perfected harmonies, Keith Goodwin, Dan Schwartz, and Tim Arnold squeeze a new sound of nostalgic blues into the first half of their album. But Good Old War bring old listeners right back into the groove of things with opening track “Over and Over”. It’s opening measure of just drum patting quickly dives into the melodic guitar parts and harmonizing they bring to every song. “This is the last time, this time I know I’m done,” Goodwin sings with the effort of someone who has, in fact, been at life for a while.
It seems an interesting spot to open an album: tired of things. But the trio brings their infectious rhythms all the same, now with an underlying note of hopeless nostalgia lingering underneath it, a bittersweet tang. Most notable on “Calling Me Names,” which starts with a guitar riff quietly plucked like a kid crafting a love song up in his bedroom past midnight, Good Old War stick with keys that can bring tears to eyes. They now layer in subtle glimmers like Schwartz’s or Arnold’s “Oohs,” handclaps, or electric guitar solos instead of their usual acoustic ones.
Good Old War have ventured into the land of ballad-like tracks with the stripped-down, vocal-heavy “Amazing Eyes”. It isn’t anything out of reach for them, but it does feel like they’re feeling the tug of gloomy thoughts. The streak of opening songs that dance the line between happy and sad serve them well. Showing an alternate side, even if not fully-indulged, gives them a more rounded figure. But before they have a chance to break their defining trait, “Better Weather” and “Can’t Go Home” play. Like punches of determination to keep their chins to the sky and embrace whatever weather it is that day, the two songs sound like a call for listeners to join them. “There are things in my life that I can’t accept. That’s the last I’ll compromise,” Goodwin sings, both as a reminder of humanity’s imperfection and the necessitation to stand strong.
“It Hurts Every Time” starts like a western shoot off before settling as a folk country song, not meant for pick-up trucks or cowboy boots, but straw between the teeth and dust outside swinging doors. Schwartz’s slide guitar solo only keeps the mood. Followed by “After The Party,” a quick paced track that features Arnold on accordion, Good Old War have beckoned listeners to whatever version of a shuffle they can, no invitation necessary. Their music is too infectious to stand still to.
The high point of Come Back As Rain is by far “Loud Love”. It isn’t a single. It doesn’t feature all of their instruments. It isn’t verbose. But what “Loud Love” has that made “Coney Island” off 2008’s Only Way To Be Alone so popular is the call for crowd interaction. “Coney Island” had the hard-to-resist handclap; “Loud Love” has callback vocal parts. “If you love me, don’t go” they sing before half shouting back “don’t go!” right after. It’s less of a plea than excitement over all that love stands for. While it isn’t a single, it’s the type of simple song that gets stuck in listeners’ heads and fights to be sung with all the breath lungs can hold. Their attention to sweet harmonies drops the previously mentioned bitterness and allows for a smooth return back to their original cheerful selves.
Come Back As Rain works as Good Old War’s time spent articulating sadness but singing it with happy souls. They’re the survivors living to inspire. Their timeless harmonies and Arnold’s passionate drumming keep each song moving until the album has ended and a gentle forty minute cleansing has ensued. Goodwin, Schwartz, and Arnold have teamed up once more to make their third album familiar, more dimensional, and as whole-hearted as is expected of three great friends.