The Academy Is... - Fast Times at Barrington High
Release Date: August 19th, 2008
Record Label: Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen
On The Academy Is' third full-length, the band throws back to those high school years. Fast Times at Barrington High works like a balance between of self-actualization, having fun and more importantly, reminiscing. Barrington, where singer William Beckett and bassist Adam Siska gloriously attended, is the guest star. It's ... cute. Charming, even. But what it isn't is a natural transition or even a step forward from Santi, the band's more moody, ballady and new wave sophomore release. And I liked Santi. Like a five-year reunion, or spending the holidays at home, it can be awkward. Charming, still, but awkward.
The album opens up with "About a Girl", which is, appropriately, about a girl. It's more than a fitting opener because it captures a theme that The Academy Is... would like to stress until they've broken their pencil tips - naivety and young love. High school love. Love for leaving town. Love to skip class. Sigh. Fast Times goes down like a root beer float. The next track, "Summer Hair Forever Young" is the same medicine. I'll never let you go, don't ever forget. Tell me you're remember, forever young. I'll never let you fall, It's not over yet. So, if you haven't dug up your memory box yet, maybe some old love notes or at least your yearbook, this song should do it. Or definitely "His Girl Friday". I'm three tracks in and I've already tired of hearing about high school. I'm not bitter, just untouched, which is to say that there is a major market of teens that could fall in love with Fast Times.
The issue here is not just that The Academy Is is lyrically overextending an already overextended concept. Musically, Fast Times is riding the shimmery pop that you'd expect to bounce around the hallways of any suburban academic institution. Beckett's vocals are stretched and unnatural for the first four tracks. The hooks are the same. It comes off strained, like some older dudes that had been out of high school for years decided to write an album about what we all wished high school was actually like. I spent weekends at debate tournaments, not in She's All That or that Melissa Joan Hart movie. If William Beckett wasn't such a heartthrob, Fast Times would be creepy.
But the tide changes on "Rumored Nights", a softer proclamation to a girl who's got some secrets in her locker. The gentle melody is fetching, and Beckett's pattern of verse incorporate nicely into the rhythm. A few tracks later, and "Coppertone" works with the same clever assimilation, although this track is probably the closest to anything off Almost Here. These two tracks show the band's progression, and rock solid production, but they're too far between on an album of 12. "Crowded Room" may be the catchiest of the bunch. "After The Last Midtown Show" is careful to sound earnest, which lyrically it does, albeit being somewhat boring. A riff on "Beware Cougar", several references to Beckett spending afternoons on his back, and "Paper Chase", which is the obligatory graduation tune, and the rest of the album is a quick wrap up. It ends as fast as it started. A memory in the wind...
good review, but i disagree Santi was good but it was one of those albums that i had to skip a few tracks Fast Times keeps me entertained and singing along the whole way through
but then again, i am going into my senior year of high school this month so that might have something to do with that
I REALLY like "About A Girl" "His Girl Friday", "Coppertone" and "After the Last Midtown Show." Will they ever hit like on Almost Here? Probably not, and I agree it may be a bit too late for their high-school record, but this still has enough hooks that get stuck in my head to make me happy with the overall effort.
See.... I agree for the most part with the review, but I feel the score should have been in the 70's.
Santi was the progression that TAI needed, badly. This album... I don't know, I like it a lot, but I know it's missing something. I don't know how the staying power will be, since I can still listen to Almost Here and Santi without being bored.
Maybe I liked this album more because I'm only 17 and I'm still at high school but, sincerelly I agree with the review, some tracks seem too identical to each other that Fast times at barrington high finish to be only a summery pop-punk record. As well, tracks like "Summer Hair = Forever Young" and "One More Weekend" are enjoyable sing-alongs for good memories. By the way it's a solid record (that goes down smoothly) with some instantly-stuck-in-your-head melodies.
Good review, Julia.
"Summer Hair", "Cougar", "Rumored Nights", "And His Girl Friday" are excellent. It doesn't match Santi. But Fast Times is my favorite pop release (Haven't heard Valencia, don't shoot me) of the year so far. It's simple, it's likable. That's what I want at the moment, and that's what I got. I heard most of this at the beach, which was perfect. Despite the high school lyrics, the music has really been upped. I like the riffs on most of the tracks. TAI impressed me with this. I was expecting not to like it. Good review though. You hit most of it right on the mark.