2nd Grade, “Wish You Were Here Tour Revisited”

2nd Grade
Wish You Were Here Tour Revisited
DOUBLE DOUBLE WHAMMY
7/10

Originally released by Sleeper Records in 2018 as a set of GarageBand demos recorded by Peter Gill in a friend’s basement, 2nd Grade (now a five-piece) have reimagined the tracks on Wish You Were Here Tour, propping the album up alongside 14 demos and one outtake. Re-released by the band’s new label Double Double Whammy, 2nd Grade unpacks new twists and turns and giftwraps them in the same sincere and fun power-pop packaging that their fans have come to love. 

Wish You Were Here Tour Revisited closes the door of their bedroom pop roots and reintroduces the project as a full-on dance party. Delivered through sparse lyrical composition and varying cadences around the same lines, there are also new leaves sprouting: prominent chorus pedal and moving bass lines churning together with layered guitar and vocals. The album explodes with a hospitable intro; it pins a similar ounce of excitement as standing in the hallway outside your high school’s gym before entering prom. It’s young, eerily nostalgic, and sets a pretty strong precedent. 

Opener “As Long as We Can Talk About It” emits its fun ’80s-type lead in the vein of Bryan Adams or INXS, and the rest of the songs seem to trail along. Among each organized thrasher, the band also had room to stick a warm ballad in there (“The Bad Boys of Rock and Roll”). The last track, “Held Back,” spans a good five-and-a-half minutes while rolling credits of everyone involved in making the record (including new and old catalog numbers) underpinned with the lead guitar and drums of the song—it works because it captures the humility of the band in its most simple light.

While Wish You Were Here Tour Revisited blooms a new array of life, I can’t say it’s an upgrade—and I mean this as a compliment, as Gill’s solo work is far from compromised by the accumulation of a full band. I’ve never seen 2nd Grade play live before, but I remember watching Gill sing a few songs on a live stream last April. In the weeds of the pandemic, he tucked himself into a basement with a small window in one corner, asking the audience if LaCroix helped with his singing. He played gently on an acoustic guitar—I imagine it was with the same amount of heart he put into rebuilding the album in the studio with friends. Every once in a while, he closed his eyes.

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