The big story in music at the moment is of course the Arctic Monkeys, a band that have just released the fastest selling debut album of all time, and indeed a band who have managed to build a fan base without a major label pushing them.
Much of the coverage of them Monkeys has focused on just how they managed to break big, almost without permission from the tastemakers. The answer lies with the Internet, and in similar fashion to the Arctic Monkeys, The Academy Is… have built up a staggering following promoting themselves online. A sell-out tour, and now this, the “eagerly awaited album”, have been achieved with very little mainstream press coverage.
It’s almost a forgone conclusion that Almost Here will be one of the biggest albums of the year – the buzz around the band is huge. Whether or not the attention is warranted is another matter entirely.
Almost Here is not actually a bad record, but neither is it groundbreaking in the slightest. The Academy Is… take their lead from the likes of Good Charlotte, Thrice and Fall Out Boy, but rather than taking a purely Emo approach, they’ve laced every song with impossibly catchy pop hooks. No doubt they will incur the wrath of many a purist – in fact, on first listen you may well want to hate this record on principle; purist or not. It’s almost too poppy, too shiny and bright to take seriously. However, given time, this sheen is almost unfairly infectious.
William Beckett’s vocals may well be fairly generic, but he does have a way with a melody that, in places, is impeccable. He also has a fine line in clever lyrics: “Oh Mr Magazine, I never wrote one single thing for you, and your so called music scene, you don’t mean a thing to me,” he warbles on Black Mamba, seemingly anticipating a backlash and getting his punches in first. Slow Down features the startling; “You kiss me like an overdramatic actor who’s starving for work,” before heading for a chorus that is pure pop gold.
Part of this record’s problem is that even when the lyrics look tinged with angst on paper (“Am I going to die? Well son, death is going to catch up to all one day, but yours is coming quicker than ours,” in The Phrase That Pays), they’re imbedded in songs that shine them into commercial diamonds. Those in search of a little aggression and dirt need not apply to this Academy. If it weren’t for Beckett’s lyrics, much of this album could well be dismissed as trite pop punk, because for all its punk/emo aspirations, Almost Here is very much a pop record. It just happens to be a pop record that features some very sharp lyrics.
Almost Here will almost certainly be a massive album: it is commercial on almost every single level, and The Academy Is… will be a band that everyone will be talking about, have no doubt about that. It is unlikely to find critical success, however, because once the smart production and pop veneer is stripped back, there’s very little substance underneath it all.