by M. Adam
Normally, when I review an album, I review it in context with the artist(s) other works. How does it fit? Have they progressed to new territory? Or have they stagnated? Reflecting on this style of review I began to question its fairness. Is it fair to judge an album based on their previous works? I’m sure we have all heard objectively good albums that fell short of our own built-up expectations and were ultimately discarded. In the face of this question, I will be reviewing 2nd grade’s sophomore album: Wish You Were Here Tour Revisited with “no context”.
Pete Gill wrote the songs to Wish You Were Here Tour at a frenetic pace over the course of one summer back in 2018. Recording all the instruments himself, Gill never anticipated his Lo-Fi garageband recorded album would see wider release beyond the few tapes put out by Philadelphia’s Sleeper Records. In 2020, equipped with a full band, Gill and co decided to re-record 8 songs and include remastered versions of all 14 of the original tracks.
The first thing that struck me about the album was the Rush of Lo-Fi guitars on the introductory song “As Long As We Can Talk About It.” Masterfully complimenting the guitar was a driving rhythm section which had my head bopping almost immediately. Gill’s vocal meshes wonderfully with the jovial guitar and upbeat rhythm while the lyrics juxtapose what could be relationship problems onto the overall upbeat song.
After maintaining a frantic pace, laden with interesting drum fills and soaring guitar, 2nd grade slows things down on one of my favourite songs off the album “The Bad Boys of Rock _ roll”. With Gill in almost hypnotic fashion repeating the line “they’re the bad boys of rock and roll,” which wormed its way into my head and lingered days after listening. Things pick back up almost immediately with “no more parties” and the introspective “Work till I die,” another stand out track, possibly reflecting his laborious job renting swan boats on the Delaware river that summer in 2018.
The energy peaks with the album’s heaviest song “Kick in the Head” which had my whole body moving. The re-recorded songs close with “Held back” which perfectly combines the slower sound the band achieved on Bad Boys of Rock_Roll with the rush of Lo-Fi guitar and drums, driving songs like “Wish you were here tour” and “Superglue.”
Gill’s vocal work shines throughout all of the re-recorded tracks, and this holds for the demos as well, which provide a more stripped back take of the songs I came to really enjoy. While the spirit of the demos clearly exist on the re-recorded tracks, the versions are different enough to still feel fresh. The demos also really highlight the personal nature Gill injects into his lyrics, and songs like “I’m an Old Dog” give us an intimate look inside his mind.
Overall this was an album I really enjoyed. It had nostalgic elements reminiscent of the early 2010’s but still felt fresh. Even after listening to the record several dozen times. Wish You Were Here Tour successfully left me wanting more. Luckily, since this was my first foray into 2nd Grade’s catalogue I still have their 2020 debut record Hit to Hit to listen to!