Oh, Good Old War, how I wish this didn’t happen. The drummer leaving the band is never a good sign for success. Philadelphia based indie-folk band turned some mixture of that and radio ready pop, Good Old War are back with their fourth record, Broken Into Better Shape, a newer sound, a new label, and two band members instead of three. Their drummer, Tim Arnold, left the group after the fantastic Come Back As Rain, to move to Atlanta and raise a family.
Three years since Come Back As Rain, Broken Into Better Shape is released and Good Old War enter a new era. I don’t want to say or describe the act of making your music more pop radio friendly as “selling out,” since the term has been used over-exaggeratedly over the years, but I really do get disappointed when it seems like a band gives up a lot of their sound and songwriting to conform to what radio finds attractive.
Title track “Broken Into Better Shape” is a nice ballad. No matter what Good Old War puts out, I’ll always enjoy Keith Goodwin’s vocals and inflections, like the one on “shape,” in the title track. As for the rest of the record though, vocals alone can’t cut it. The new pop-style production, lack of a true drummer, and simplistic lyricism bring Broken Into Better Shape leagues below its predecessor.
As James Christopher Monger of Allmusic put it perfectly, Broken Into Better Shape “sets the stage for a smartly paced ten-track set that feels tailor-made to accompany dramedy movie trailers, automobile and insurance commercials, and slow-mo reality show montages.” Cliché-ridden and just naively shy of pretension, Broken Into Better Shape might put Good Old War on the board among the likes of Walk the Moon or Fun., but if there’s anything I can predict about those groups as well, they won’t be around for long if they keep this up, because another group of similar sounding bands will be on their heels by the end of the year.