Smalltown ennui, lust, and teens in turmoil - these Westmeath tyros crack open a bottle of post-adolescent blues on their bracing debut
With a dog-eared copy of The Catcher in The Rye in their back pockets and the complete works of New York’s 2001 rock revival on their iPhones, The Academic spill their guts out on Tales From The Backseat. That album title could have a double meaning - are these tales of illicit lust on a drive-by Saturday or are they anxious observations from a life spent as a passenger well removed from the driving seat?
They’re a bit of both really. With Craig Fitzgerald’s emotive voice to the fore and Matt Murtagh’s needlepoint guitar sparking away, these perfectly formed indie pop salvos are powered along by meaty drums from Dean Gavin and Stephen Murtagh’s bobbing basslines. Most of all though, The Academic are powered along by an urge to escape.
The Academic talk to RTÉ Entertainment
Northern Boy sketches s a sub-Springsteen bound for glory urge to get out or at least make it as far as the M4, while the hook-heavy power pop of Permanent Vacation asks "how do you find yourself if you never leave?". The paramour on Girlfriend ("only 20 and she’s driving a Bentley") needs money so she can "run away and live as a renegade".
Despite all that, a twitchy sense of unease about the future seizes many of the songs here. This is not quite the teen rebellion and jubilation of early Ash and those doubts and fears make The Academic all the more interesting.
However, manic pop thrills and fizzy energy also abound - the mammoth, spiraling guitar riffs of Bear Claws are a blast and Different is a clever little nugget that manages to be both sappy and lustful. I Feel It Too displays a love of late seventies US New Wave and Television has the irresistible chime of early Smiths.
The spectre of indie landfill rears up here and there but at a thrifty 33 minutes, The Academic have delivered a short, sharp jab to the aural sweet spot.
Alan Corr @corralan