By: Rich Buley
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Released on February 12, 2016 via
As reformations of nineties ‘shoegaze’ bands go, the coming back together of the original, permanent line-up of San Francisco’s Film School was more unexpected and largely unheralded than possibly any other.
Although not a part of the seminal period for effects-laden noise pop of 1990-1992, lead singer Greg Bertens, the only constant through the band’s history, recorded four albums under the Film School moniker in a 12 year period between 1998-2010. The initial incarnation of the fully formed band imploded after the release of their eponymous album on Beggars Banquet in 2006, with members not talking to each other again until last year (as confirmed by Bertens in a recent interview). Bertens shut up shop in 2011, after a couple more line-up changes and two more albums- the lukewarm reception to 2010’s Fission perhaps being the final straw.
Well, seemingly thanks to drummer Donny Newenhouse making the first move, the self-titled album line-up played what was meant to be a one-off live performance last year, but they enjoyed themselves so much, with time and changing priorities seemingly healing any historical differences, that they soon headed into the studio to record their first new material as a band for 9 years. June, a four track EP, is the leading result, with an album to apparently follow later this year.
Despite lazily being lumbered with the same shoegazing tag as hundreds of other bands who use reverb and delay to create a rarefied, enveloping atmosphere, Film School dealt more in the desolate landscape and theatrical style of post punk, with Bertens’ deep, often disconsolate vocal adding to a sound that had much more in common with Echo & The Bunnymen and Interpol than My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive.
‘City Lights’ kicks off the EP, and the brooding, developing soundscape that opens the track is the sound of a special band clicking straight back into gear after nearly a decade apart. Bertens enters the fray after a couple of minutes, in familiar fashion, his bleak, tormented voice making this an unmistakable Film School outing, as percussion pounds and guitars glide all around him.
‘Give Up’ is Film School in top speed, five and a half minutes of captivating, barrelling indie rock, and hopefully a sign of things to come with the long player to follow.
The two remaining tracks on the release, ‘Waiting On A Cause’ and ‘June’, see the band in much more reflective, partly exploratory mood, and may indicate a desire from the band to move into the type of bar room indie blues made popular by the likes of Death Cab For Cutie and The Airborne Toxic Event.
Although the EP could have benefited from either a track listing re-arrangement (as things do ebb away a little bit) or the inclusion of a more dramatic song to end proceedings, Film School have returned and are making new music, and the early signs are, for the most part, hugely encouraging. Welcome back.