|The Academy Is... - Fast Times at Barrington High review
||[Aug. 15th, 2008|11:34 am]
I certainly didn't see this coming, but at least now their intentions are clear. How's this for a career path? They debuted with a pop-rock gem (Almost Here) that should have vaulted them to the top of the charts. They followed that with a mature turn (Santi) where the Butch Walker influence both helped and hurt them. Now here they are just a year removed from that with Fast Times at Barrington High, what seems to be their desperate attempt to latch onto the hottest trend that they've seen tourmates and labelmates and friends blow up with.
This sound has been done to death and has become so watered down. It has become increasingly hard for a band in this vein to be any different, but it is still possible. However, not a single thing about this album stands out from anything else you can hear on any given power-pop myspace. We know they are better musicians than what they show here. We know William is both a better singer and lyricist than what we hear and read. It's frustrating to see a band with such potential limit themselves to this.
While all five members of the band are young men, they are not in high school anymore. Everything from the album title to the subject matter of the songs is just that: high school gossip, high school relationships, high school drama. Considering the mature themes of the last album, this is just another huge step backwards. Releasing an album of this sort as their debut and progressing from there would make sense, because this is an absolute regression across the board.
Did they release this too soon? Only 16 months have passed since the release of Santi. Has the loss of Tom Conrad truly been detrimental? The best guitar work the band has seen is still found on Almost Here, without question. Did they get fed up with seeing their peers achieve the sales numbers and fame they desire and decide to make their splash into the ever-so-boring crowd? The questions will linger but the fact remains, they sold themselves short. The choice of producer here would seem to support that. Enlisting Sam Hollander and Sluggo would seem to be another sign of the direction the band aims to take. The duo, having recently worked with the likes of Boys Like Girls, We The Kings, Metro Station and All Time Low, are the current hot producer in this ever so bland genre. Hollander even co-wrote seven of the tracks, including the single, "Summer Hair = Forever Young."
Despite all of this, the album isn't necessarily bad. It is very listenable (but isn't that the point in this genre?) and could make for a decent summer driving-around-with-the-windows-down album. The fact that it leaves so much to be desired really does hurt it, though. Summer is almost over and autumn will soon be here. The temperatures will fall, the leaves will change colors, and these songs will be forgotten.