Film School first made an impact in the UK with aseries of live performances in London in 2004. Signedto Beggars late last year, they are now in primeposition to begin an assault on the UK market. And ifyou’d like to judge a book by its cover, then on thisoccasion feel free – the album’s artwork of strikinglycoloured poppy blooms on a dark background is aperfect visual representation of the band’s music.
First impressions of the San Francisco quintet areextremely good, of a confident outfit who know exactlywhat they’re doing but aren’t going to let themselvesget backed into a stylistic corner. An edgy beatbegins proceedings, but opens up to reveal a spacious,cinematic texture and a killer vocal hook that setstracks for the centre of your brain.
It’s all very promising, and a highly impressiveand ambitious first few minutes, yet unlike many adebut that pitches its best material at the start thisrecord just goes on getting better and better. With On& On cast as a bold, epic second track with a drivingpercussion underbelly we begin to see something of ablueprint in the sweeping melancholy of these bigcompositions. Krayg Burton’s slightly nasalvocals hold a hint of the early 90s in theirinflections, but are perfectly cast against the cloudybackdrop, wonderful whooshes of sound giving the homestereo or headphones a real treat. Even the half-wayinstrumental Garrison succeeds in its big chordprogression, stately yet curiously moving.
Stylistic comparisons reveal the slightest ofbrushes with The Cure, Secret Machinesand even British Sea Power, but Film Schoolhave plenty of their own originality on show, and onlythe Secret Machines would consider something like thewonderfully ghosted drum intro to Like You Know. At apoint where the album should by rights be petering outand getting tired on its feet, and is in factthreatening to self-combust, this wonderful momentsets everything back on track for the homestraight.
Production, as you’ll have gathered, is big, butnot pretentious, meaning songs like On & On and Harmedcarry all before them, as does He’s A Deep, Deep Lake,with its falsetto vocals. This title hints at a themeof fantasy within the quintet, and the music takes anydirection it chooses. And yet these are wellstructured, big-boned songs, strongly melodic andirresistibly moody.
After a few listens this record will have made aclaim for exclusive rights to your ears. It’s anextremely auspicious record with which to kick offtheir worldwide career, and marks them out to be aband of strength, quality, and originality. It’s veryearly to say this, but already Film School is lookinglike one of this year’s best albums.