Album Name: Self-titled
Best Element: Unique vocals
Band E-mail: email@example.com
When the first lyrics of School’s opener “Red Lights and Blue Eyes” cue up, it couldn’t be more perfect: “And now you see, there are no other men like me.” It’s definitely a truism, because although School plays indie-pop with dance rock inflections like many in today’s scene, they throw in a major twist: Matthew Teardrop’s vocals.
To say that Matthew Teardrop’s vocals are reminiscent of those that characterized the eighties new-wave movement (warbly, faux-operatic baritones with a lot of vibrato) would be like saying that Alpha Centauri is vaguely reminiscent of the sun. It’s not that they’re close to each other- it’s that they’re basically the same thing in different places.
After the initial shock of hearing what sounds like Robert Smith singing over a Death Cab song, I started to realize that this oddity actually wasn’t that bad- the pop sensibilities weren’t diminished any by the odd choice of vocals, and on slightly deranged, Joy Division-esque songs such as “Under the Radar”, the choice of darker vocals actually improves the quality of the song.
But if I attached all my attention to the vocals I’d be doing a disservice to this album. The songwriting and musicianship here is great- the guitarist and keyboardist work well together to create swirling, involving moods for the vocals to play around in. The drums are one low point of School’s sound- the beats are a little bit too simple. In abusing the closed high-hat sound, a lot of the drum work sounds the same, which is sad.
The repetition of the drum-lines and the growing annoyance that I feel against the vocal stylings work to make the best songs on this album all packed toward the front- the delicate, lyrically brilliant “Red Lights and Blue Eyes”, the pulsing “Man and Woman”, and the relentlessly catchy “School”. The darker “Under the Radar” does fall in the second half, but for the most part, the more enjoyable half is the first one.
School’s self-titled effort is an admirable one- they establish a sound and take some liberties within that sound. I’d like to hear them with some more exciting drumbeats and better production- I think they would be snapped up as the indie darlings they should be. Definitely an impressive album, and a great starting point for a band.