POZ Review: Good Old War - Live From The City Of Brotherly Love
by Steve Ciccarelli, edited by Erik van Rheenen
It’s hard to not think about The Band when examining the career path of Philadelphia’s Good Old War. Formed from the ashes of another group? Check. First rose to prominence backing a popular solo artist? Another check. Emerged from that artist’s shadow to become a new force all their own? Check is an understatement for that one. The once under-appreciated sidemen to Anthony Green have spent the last few years quietly putting out good records and doing interesting tours, but with Live From The City Of Brotherly Love they have distilled it all down to a bona fide statement: this is who we are, and you’re going to pay attention.
On their first live album, Good Old War interacts with each other less like bandmates and more like brothers. The banter that begins “Looking for Shelter” isn’t that of a “professional band” making a “professional live album,” but more like lifelong friends sitting around a living room surrounded by empty Yuengling bottles and their instruments. It’s like they just sort of decided to play some songs on this evening, but there happened to be a room full of adoring fans singing along. Hearing the audience croon back during songs like “Weak Man” is sort of beautiful, thinking about the scene from which the band emerged. They were doing the folky thing before Mumford & Sons took it to Top 40, but they were playing to pop-punk fans.
The beautifully fingerpicked guitars set the bed for soaring melodies that at once haunt and comfort. “We’re goin’ out tonight so we can clear our worried heads,” begins “Woody’s Hood Boogie Woogie.” It’s a song that speaks to the anxieties of being young and clueless in a way that’s kind of unbelievable in its clarity. But it never sounds as desperate as the lyrics would lead you to believe. “The truth is that we’ll all get burned some day,” a realization that’s most freeing. Sometimes it might take too long to come around to, but here it’s laid out almost as a warning.