Urgent Telegram To: San Francisco band Film School
Re: Self-Titled Album
Robert Smith called and wants his notebook back. Stop.
This may come off as a grim and unfair assessment of the `on-the-brink’ band Film School as there are plenty of other bands out there making a name on the Cure’s dime. Of course, not all of them can be produced by D.F.A. and have the same success as the Rapture. The first half of this decade will end up going down as the resurgence of all things ’80s, for good or ill, and Film School’s jones for everything Robert Smith is more than noticeable, it’s blatantly obvious. Frontman Krayg Burton’s voice even has the same weepy pathos that Smith exhibits regularly in his own work, deep and just a bit shaky, as if any moment tears could erupt. This does not necessarily denote bad things for Film School as other very successful bands that `emulate’ their heroes have emerged in recent years, such as both the Editors and Interpol cashing in on the monotone vocal style of Ian Curtis.
Film School has made a big splash on the West Coast and in the U.K. recently with a four song EP and the single release of On & On, a very catchy tune which finds its first full-length home on the band’s debut self-titled album. Unfortunately, unlike Editors, Interpol, or even the Rapture, the songs that surround the great single just don’t stack up. Rather than coming off like a band that takes their influences to brand new heights, they sound like a pale mirror reflection, a ghostly incarnation of something that was once great, yet now elusive and transitory. Members of the band are talented, fully capable of making tight and melodic music that proves a unity of mind between them. Yet instead of the Beatles, Film School is more comparable to Beatlemania.
The subtraction of just one small element could make the difference in the striking similarities. For instance, take away the moaning and earnest vocals, or the jangly post-punk guitars, or the carnival keyboards and things could be markedly different. But as it is, when “Harmed” cues up, all roads lead to Smith. Not only that, but when your lyrics start to become a mixed up magnetic poetry version of “In Between Days,” you know that something has to give. As a parallel to Smith’s “Yesterday I got so so old it felt like I could die. Yesterday away from you it froze me deep inside,” Burton croons, “Yesterday I ran the whole day a record mile from that town and all the time I worked for something I lived alone in my heart.” Okay, not exactly a carbon copy, but close enough for government work. But alongside the guitar intro which makes the song instantly familiar, it’d be akin to another band starting a song with an a capella shout of “Hey hey Mama,” and not expect one to think of the Zep.
Regardless, centerpiece songs such as “Breet” and “He’s a Deep Deep Lake” are sonic stunners. These moody build-up pieces still suffer slightly from the `name that band or song’ syndrome, including the latter resembling a new wave version of “Space Oddity” meets Pearl Jam’s “Black,” but the mix of that dark 80’s sound with a little bit of later Pink Floyd psychedelia makes for a complex composition. Overall the long awaited debut is strong, but lacks a creative spark or energy that could set it apart amongst the sea of ’80s throwback bands. There is no doubt in my mind that the album will find an audience as particular preview songs already have on some cutting edge radio stations, but to me, most everything except for the single and a few standout songs just seemed to go “On & On.”
The Cure- The Head on the Door
The Cure- Bloodflowers
Catherine Wheel- Like Cats & Dogs