Walter Schreifels: An Open Letter to the Scene

An Open Letter to the Scene may be the best distillation of all things Walter Schreifels that we’ve heard to date.

Walter Schreifels

An Open Letter to the Scene

Lavel: Academy Fight Song
US Release Date: 2010-05-11
UK Release Date: 2010-04-26

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, watching the progenitors of youth culture has proven to be an interesting sport. Rap pioneers like Grandmaster Flash and Kool Herc have been afforded the elder statesman status they so richly deserve, but Metal has been more hit or miss. For every Rob Halford out there getting it done, there are 10 Ozzys with offstage singers holding it down for them. The hardcore scene has had an even tougher time of it.

Many of the serious players in the game are still at it. This eventuality makes it a continued pleasure to see a Sick Of It All show, but those that are getting on in years and want to convey their songs at a more reasonable volume are finding it tough to make the transition to a world without walls of guitars and drums. The plot thickens considerably when screamers realize they really can’t sing and try to do it anyway. The Dylan and companion folk scene card is an easy, albeit weighty, one to play when it concerns the harmonically challenged. The everyman marker should be afforded the respect it deserves, but the fact is few of the players in the game have the kind of lyrical firepower to back it up.

Austin Lucas and the Drag The River gents are notable exceptions to the rule, but few would question their pipes. The frontmen of Avail, Hot Water Music, Lawrence Arms and the like fall a fair bit shorter when faced with the prospect of more Spartan backing, their standing as great rock singers and/or solid individuals aside.

Walter Schreifels is an interesting facet of this conundrum. Save for Jesse Malin, and maybe Richie Underdog, I don’t believe anyone from the New York hardcore scene has tried to do the solo songwriter thing. The fact that it is Walter Schreifels makes for a more interesting eventuality. Of everyone involved in the NYHC scene, no one has parleyed their position and evolved more to be successful in the fickle world of the music industry.

Starting with Gorilla Biscuits, the band that established the concepts for the melodic hardcore that Lifetime and all the bands that have followed since have stood by, Schreifels was the first to garner mainstream success by melding catchy hooks with the driving guitars and pounding drums that stirred the dance floors at NYHC shows to a frenzy. Tenures in Youth Of Today, Warzone and a gang of other project hardcore bands followed before Schreifels blazed into the '90s with the seminal post-hardcore group Quicksand. Singing and playing guitar, backed with Tom Capone of Bold and the powerhouse rhythm section of Sergio Vega and Alan Cage, Quicksand soon got a huge name for themselves, playing the first Warped Tour and garnering a substantial following overseas. Concurrent with Quicksand, Schreifels got together with the old GB crew and wrote them an entire record called Set Your Goals. The band took the name of its frontman Civ and managed to score a decent hit with “Can’t Wait One Minute More". Schreifels' role in both franchises held him in Island/Def Jam’s good favor and greased the wheels nicely for a deal when he investigated a smoother sound with Rival Schools United By Fate.

Ever the mercurial soul, the next project Schiefels put together was considerably more Brit-Pop (read: Oasis) based. Walking Concert was well received, but ultimately sidelined for the reformation of Rival Schools, itself a reunification that will seemingly sideline promotion for this, his first true solo release.

It’s a shame, as An Open Letter To The Scene may be the best distillation of all things Walter Schreifels that we’ve heard to date. It’s appropriate, as An Open Letter is the first Eponymous release from our hero. Schreifels sounds alternately very much like Josh Rouse or Matt Keating on the 10 tracks.

The Civ track "Don’t Gotta Prove It" is revisited in that vein, as is the mostly successful cover of the Agnostic Front chestnut "Society Suckers". These ties to his hardcore roots are allusions that started to unfold the first time I heard the closing “Open Letter”. I didn’t catch the AF cover the first time, but when the chorus of “Don’t Forget The Struggle, Don’t Forget The Streets” rang through the headphones, it was impossible to miss the allusion to NYHC stalwart Warzone or the fact that that the song was about the funeral of charismatic frontman Ray Beez. Unpeel the onion, and the mention of Evan Seinfeld from Biohazard on the opening “Arthur Lee’s Lullaby” prove to be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Craig Finn-ian recollections of a youth as a hardcore kid. Such genuine and unforced recountance is more the norm than the exception here, save perhaps for the fairly insipid song about Little Kim that comes out a little too open-mic night when compared to the rest of the tracks on An Open Letter To The Scene.

There is allegedly another solo record on the way, as well as new full-lengths from the aforementioned Rival Schools and Walk Concert franchises. While the sheer volume of new Schreifels material is an exciting proposition, it’s important that this debut solo release not be lost in a flood of new releases, regardless of their quality. An Open Letter To The Scene is a great record and auspicious solo debut from Walter Schreifels that deserves to be championed.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.