Monday, January 08, 2018

Album Review :: The Academic - Tales From The Backseat


The Academic

Tales From The Backseat

January 12 2018 (Downtown Records)


Words: Richard O’Hagan

At the turn of another year, it remains as hard as ever to get a recording contract. Arguably, it is even harder to keep hold of one once you have got it. The days of the seven album deal are long behind us and artists generally have to take the one chance that they have been given.

Sadly, this is something which Irish indie act The Academic have failed to do on this, their debut long player. To put it bluntly, something has gone a little wrong here. What should be a bright and edgy album (as heard on their 2015 debut EP ‘Loose Friends’), this Tim Pagnotta produced, recorded in LA work, has turned into something fairly bland, with the ten tracks packed all in in just under 35 minutes, merging into one another.

The result is the record that you might get if The Joy Formidable and Vampire Weekend got together and signed some sort of non-aggression pact, taking only the blandest parts of their respective repertoires and putting them together.

Opener ‘Permanent Vacation' has some okay moments, whilst the line ‘That’s enough of you, now just you shut your mouth’ in the alt-rock anthem ‘Bear Claws’ made me laugh out loud; while 'Why Can't We Be Friends?' is a crisp pop jam, and 'Northern Boy', one of their earlier penned numbers, is enough of a foot-tapper to keep you in there. But that's about as good as it gets.

Many years ago, there was a fantastic live band from the Black Country named The Sandkings. Someone had the bright idea of sending them into a studio with legendary producer Stephen Street to make their debut album. He squashed their sound flat and, as a result, the record sank like a stone. The same production problem seems to have happened to The Academic on this record. You keep waiting for something to happen, but nothing does.

There’s no denying that The Academic have talent, but this is a record which needed to jump and shout to get them noticed. Instead, it is a fat old cat snoozing on a trampoline. Yet this band has the ability and potential to produce better, and it could well be a case of their second album far from being the 'difficult' one, surpasses this first effort.

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