Album Reviews

English Teacher – This Could Be Texas

(Island) UK release date: 12th April 2024

Debut album from Leeds four-piece is full of confidence, heart and ambition and marks them out as the most exciting new band in the country

English Teacher - This Could Be Texas Every so often, a band comes along who sound so compelling, that after a couple of listens, you’re unsure how you’ve managed to survive for this long without hearing them before. In 2024, English Teacher are that band.

The few EPs they’ve released so far will not prepare you for the sheer excellence of This Could Be Texas. It’s a debut album full of confidence, heart and ambition, with songs that sound both instantly familiar and also like nothing you’ve ever heard before.

It’s an album with everything: scrappy knockabout rocky anthems and big, enormous ballads with quasi-classical piano that will tear your heart to bits. Even to those wary of hyperbole, there’s a case to be made that English Teacher could be the most exciting new band in the country.

Lead singer Lily Fontaine employs a half-spoken singing style (similar to that of Yard Act and Dry Cleaning) which could become wearying in some hands: here though, it just means that her lyrics are even more noticeable. And what lyrics they are – The World’s Biggest Paving Slab doesn’t just have an excellent title, but also references actors John Simm and Lee Ingleby, the Pendle Witches and golden post-boxes. By the time it bursts into its chorus and Fontaine warns “watch your fucking feet”, you’re addicted.

The band’s singles so far, like the exhilarating Nearly Daffodils, may draw comparisons to bands like Wolf Alice and Sprints, but this is a band that very much contain multitudes. Like Black Country, New Road, they jump from post-punk to synth pop, from gnarly, snarling defiance to wistful, heartbroken balladry – often in the space of a single song.

The title track is built on a stirring piano melody which ebbs and flows through the song, while the brilliant I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying is a tense, angular rocker which is followed by Mastermind Specialism, a contemplative, dreamy ballad about self-doubt and existential angst, which references Doctor Who, Nosferatu and the teeth of Chris Tarrant. The shifts in tone would be dizzying if they weren’t handled so expertly.

In amongst the pop culture references are lyrical themes of alienation and identity – Fontaine is mixed-race, from Lancashire and now settled in Leeds. “Despite my appearance, I haven’t got the voice for R&B” runs one particularly arch line in the perfect post-punk that is R&B, while the magnificently epic closing track Albert Street talks of small-town attitudes (“don’t take our prejudice to heart, we hate everyone”) while managing to be laugh-out-loud funny with lines like “three rocks short of a dry stone wall, Steve’s mate’s son used to play in The Fall“.

That’s not to mention the devastating double-header of the soul-stirring You Blister My Paint (possibly the closest thing English Teacher have to a big soaring ballad that you can hold a mobile phone torch aloft to) and Sideboob, which despite its title is actually a shimmeringly beautiful ode to the scenery of the Colne Valley.

English Teacher are the sort of band it could be easy to become evangelical about – whenever anyone complains that there’s no decent new music released anymore, point them in the direction of This Could Be Texas, and then feel very smug that you’ve introduced someone to their new favourite band. As Fontaine sings in Not Everybody Gets To Go To Space, “not everybody gets a time to shine” – this is English Teacher’s time to shine and they look to set to grab it with both hands.

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English Teacher – This Could Be Texas