Heartland rock is scoring a lot of headlines in 2021, and the revival isn’t being spurred on by mainstream forces exclusively. On the underground end of the rock n’ roll world, artists like Rich Chambers have been giving life to pastoral harmonies and electrified melodies all year long, perhaps with even greater zeal than their corporate-bankrolled contemporaries have. Chambers’ new single “High School Can’t Last Forever” is a shot of vitality where a lot of content from similar artists has been relatively slow-paced, and to me, this is the most profoundly authentic addition to the modern heartland rock scene this year.
The main harmony in this track has a really easy feel, but not in the sense that it feels like Chambers is giving a lax delivery behind the microphone. Instead, I think that the kinship between his vocal and the strings feels so natural it’s hard to tell where his portion of the melodic element here is starting and that of the guitar is ending. He’s got an affection for the hook that is unstoppable, and when set to the kind of beat we find in “High School Can’t Last Forever,” we wind up with some killer results to say the least.
These guitar strings feature a sweet sizzle that doesn’t dissipate in the face of the fat bottom-end in this mix, but instead grows stronger and eventually sets off the most provocative part of the whole song – the chorus. I can only imagine that this portion of the track would be even more potent in a live setting, but at the same time, I think we’re getting a pretty good idea about what kind of a concert vibe we would get from Rich Chambers in this wholly unfiltered studio performance comprising his new single and its music video.
Chambers’ lyrics feel rather retrospective rather than in the moment, but this owes more to the rustic backdrop than it does anything in this artist’s execution. It’s the only truly surreal component of “High School Can’t Last Forever,” which is something that makes this single so unique beside the majority of the material being offered up by his underground rivals (the majority of whom are celebrating postmodernity in one way or another almost every time they get into the studio to record something fresh). He’s self-aware, and only ever embracing cerebral influences when it makes the dream he describes all the more vivid for the audience.
There is still a lot that I want to get to know about Rich Chambers in the years ahead, but if there’s one big takeaway from “High School Can’t Last Forever,” it’s that he’s a player who has the right idea about making smart, efficient heartland rock that doesn’t dwell too much in the past, but looks ahead to what the genre can provide us with in the present. It’s a concept I can get behind as a critic and a fan, which is something I’m saying less and less in regards to revivalist genres of any kind.