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  Film School  
  Hi-Speed Soul  
Release Date:


Reviewed by:
  Inspector Jason  

Film School's new album, Fission, arrived at my doorstep just before a series of weekly road trips to various ultramarathon races. The albums that stay closest to my heart are usually the ones that I've enjoyed listening to while driving. Whether it's memories of enjoying the Southern gothic charm of R.E.M.'s Fables Of The Reconstruction while exploring the rural mountain backroads after moving to north Georgia in the summer before my senior year of high school, playing Hüsker Dü's Warehouse: Songs And Stories on the way back home the day after my senior prom, marveling at The Verve's Urban Hymns while driving to different environmental inspection sites for my job in north Georgia during the late 1990's, or even hearing Interpol's Turn On The Bright Lights for several weeks on the way to and from work across downtown Atlanta a few years ago, I can always conjure specific recollections of transit and the blur of roadside scenery when I hear my all-time favorite music. This new Film School album is less than two months old, but its place in my autobiographical history is forever ensured as the soundtrack to my adventures of the 2010 fall season. Fission, a well-paced collection of ethereal shoegaze numbers, sunny guitar rock songs, and indie jangle, is an album that can wake me up with enthusiasm while I drive to a trail race at 4:00 in the morning, but it also functions as an adrenaline comedown while I nurse sore legs on the trip back home in the late afternoon. All the while, memories are sealed in the background music.

For this fourth full-length Film School album, the lineup remains the same as seen on of their previous release, 2007's Hideout, but the band's trademark shoegazer approach has evolved by way of an increased pop sensibility and an increased vocal presence from bassist Lorelei Plotczyk. The album's ninth track, Sunny Day, which brilliantly fuses a 60s girl-group melody with the band's previous My Bloody Valentine fixation, is one of the standout examples of how Film School have achieved accessibility without sacrificing one iota of their brooding rush of fuzzy guitar post-rock beauty. When I'm Yours is a catchy danceable number that will surprise Film School fans who didn't expect a song that will make them dance around when nobody is watching late at night. The album's opening track and first single, Heart Full Of Pentagons, starts with a cool electric percussion and Beach Boys-esque harmony that leads into cascading angular guitar melodies soothing over Greg Berten's insistent vocals about a relationships falling to pieces after an inability to confide and connect. Sonically adventurous keyboard-laced numbers, like Still Might and Meet Around 10, would have fit in well with the darker edges of Film School's earlier albums, but also fall into the fold and are granted a new momentum in the diversity of the work as a whole. Everything comes together in the album's masterpiece, Nothing's Mine, that demonstrates a swirl of guitar fury and harmonic vocals which recall the best of bands like Lush, Catherine Wheel, and Curve.

Fission is easily my favorite album of the past two or three years. The CD refuses to leave my truck stereo during my fall road trips and the stack of newer albums (Interpol, Blonde Redhead, Deerhunter) that I haven't been able to absorb continues to grow while I continue to bliss out to this Film School album over and over from beginning to end. It's not an album that sneaks up on me, as the first Interpol album did ("I've been listening to this in my vehicle for the past six months nonstop, so I guess it's a great album."). Instead, this one effortlessly slid into place and fit my current musical yearnings like a glove. That's a good thing in a time when I've been burned out on most music and approached new albums with a "I've heard it all before" dashed enthusiasm. I'm reacquainted with the fact that the right music at the right time can still perfectly hit the target, just as Luke Skywalker's final shot from the X-Wing exploded the Death Star. Most of these new songs from Fission were even more effective onstage when PostLibyan and I caught Film School at their recent show at The Masquerade here in Atlanta, and I was impressed at how well the poppy diversity of the new material fell in with older numbers like Two Kinds, Compare, and Breet.

Film School will remain a band that draws multiple comparisons to My Bloody Valentine, Lush, and other early 1990s shoegaze acts and I still can't help bestowing such references upon them. As far as the general effect of this band goes, however, I'm repeatedly reminded of an older band of a somewhat different musical approach, a college-rock band from North Carolina called The Connells. Like The Connells, Film School crafts pop masterpieces in a seemingly effortless fashion. Like The Connells, Film School will likely never attract the mass audiences that they deserve. Fortunately, Film School seemed to have a genuine enjoyment of their place in the grand scheme of the music world as they played these songs from Fission in a tiny back corner of The Masquerade last month, just as The Connells never took their status as a fan's band for granted. In today's world of Auto-Tune blandness with Top 40 and overburdening postmodern self-awareness with most indie rock acts, a band like Film School that increasingly finds its own original style while still wearing influences on its sleeve is a great thing. As Fission continues to soundtrack the passing of fall leaf changes and roadside apple orchards on my way to mountain trails, I'm grateful for an album that has made me fall in love with music again.

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Also on EvilSponge:
    Album: Film School
    Concert: Fri.19.Oct.07
    Concert:  Mon.21.Apr.08
    Concert: Sat.25.Sep.10


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