- 07 Feb 18
Young Hopefuls Prove Themselves Fully Qualified. RSA Examiner: Pat Carty
Although they've made plenty of waves here and abroad since their debut EP Loose Friends in 2015 - high profile support slots with the likes of The Pixies and Noel Gallagher, constant touring including, just as an example of their work ethic, six shows in five days at SXSW, signing proper deals - The Academic came up with a brilliantly simple, attention-grabbing wheeze a few months ahead of the release of this, their debut album. Using the delay between pressing the Facebook Live button, and actually showing up on people's feeds, they created a meticulously rearranged "looper version" of their 'Bear Claws' single, which made all the papers and is currently sailing towards two million views. As a follow on from this, they were able to announce a headline show at Dublin's Iveagh Gardens, an undertaking the size of which took people who weren't paying attention, like me, by surprise. Tickets are flying out the door; their future looks impossibly bright.
Good for them, you might say, but that's just a gimmick. Perhaps, but they can back it up with proper tunes. In thrall, by their own admission, to The Killers, Kings of Leon and The Strokes, they replace Brandon Flowers' po-facery, the Followill Gang's William Faulkner notions, and Julian Casablancas tiresome self-styled New York cool with an infectious joie de vivre. The music cherry picks the best elements from those three acts and adds a polish that you could check your teeth in.
Hooks lodge in the brain like a hungry tick that won't take no for an answer - take the chorus of 'Permanent Vacation', the "Ay! Ohh!" bit in 'Bear Claws', or the sugar-rush of 'Different'. And there's more. What about the new wave intro to 'I Feel It Too' which gives way to a chorus you could stand on to paint the ceiling, managing to squeeze at least six syllables out of the word 'Girlfriend', or the whole of 'Why Can't We Be Friends?' The lyrics also resolutely stay on message, dealing with either the trials of being young (the lads can't get in to the club because they look about twelve in 'Fake ID', they're drinking lemonade in 'Bite My Tongue'), or girls (everything else). Is a song called 'Northern Boys' a comment on the potential return to a hard border post Brexit? Is it balls; it's about not being afraid to love, or something.
If you want further proof of how good this is, my 11-year old daughter took one listen, started singing along, and then refused to let me play anything else for the weekend, before disappearing off back to her Ma's house with my review copy. As you read this, the album has already hit the top spot on the Irish charts, which is just reward for a band who made a conscious decision early on to do the work, build up their base, and take the time to get the album right.
And get it right they have, Tales From The Back Seat is a triumphant pop record that even the DUP couldn't vote against.