The Academy Is

Fast Times At Barrington High

Written by: TL on 22/09/2008 11:23:20

When Fall Out Boy lead the pop-punk conquest of the mainstream some time last Thursday, one of the bands that exploded into the awareness of the music business was The Academy Is who, riding on FOB's coat tail label Fueled By Ramen, gave us one hell of a catchy record with "Almost Here". While proficient enough, however, their sophomore "Santi" failed to deliver to the expectations of the wider mainstream audience, and subsequently, TAI dropped off the radar of many for a while, until now that is, as they've recently returned with a third album called "Fast Times At Barrington High".

In order to first compare "Fast Times..." to "Almost Here" and "Santi", fans are likely to find that it is closer in resemblance to the former than the latter, as some of the sharp attitude "Santi" brought into the picture, has gone away in favour of a more immediately bright and friendly expression. Just as on the two predecessors, "Fast Times..." has a distinct signature sound to it, and this time around it's giving me a vision of The Cure trying to fool you into thinking that they're happy guys. There's a kind of 80'ies overly poppy melody to every second of the album, but just like a prom night might look like thoroughly happy times at a glance, there are conflicts and drama lurking underneath the surface, personified in the lyrics and delivery in William Beckett's vocal work, as he constantly has that hint of sharp, melancholic criticism in the very edge of his delivery. It's the voice of someone looking back with that mixture of longing and regret you might know from thinking about your own high school days, and it's basically that which ends up marking that TAI are somewhat more than your average mass produced pop punk injection.

Effectively the first three tracks of the album have instant hit potential, "His Girl Friday" being the immediate highlight of the album. The album doesn't let up there though, and all the way to the end, there are not only melodic guitars and sugarcoated choruses enough to make Plain White T's fans interested, but also enough hinted emotion to hook disciples of the likes of Jimmy Eat World or Taking Back Sunday. "Crowded Room" and "Coppertone" serving as further examples that have gotten me the most hooked.

On the flip side of things, there's a weird bland feeling left in you by the time "Fast Times At Barrington High" is through playing. One I can only identify as the feeling that, despite a good overall quality level, there isn't really anything truly exhilarating about the album. Rather than surprising you or moving you emotionally, there's simply the feeling that you've heard an album of well-crafted songs, and while that's all well and good, you would've wanted just a little bit more. As such, I don't think "Fast Times..." will return TAI to the spotlight they hogged on "Almost Here", but I still think it's worth getting, especially if you have a desire to see the band live one day, as I'm sure William's charismatic performance will give these songs just that little lift they need for them to really reach you.

Download: His Girl Friday, Crowded Room, Coppertone
For The Fans Of: Plain White T's, Jimmy Eat World, Taking Back Sunday

Release Date 19.08.2008
Fueled By Ramen Records

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