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Ultra-catchy debut shows off more shining moments than not
Name: "School Boy Humor " Label: Vagrant
For fans of: Forever The Sickest Kids, All Time Low, Mayday Parade, The Academy Is, We The Kings Release Date: February 24, 2008 My rating: 4.4/5 (updated March 7, 2009)
Review written by: Alan Ho
Little Rock power-pop quintet School Boy Humor is certainly one of music's best-kept secrets, despite its constant exposure on popular teen tabloid magazines, a ringing endorsement from the very person that inspired the Jonas Brothers' first breakout hit and performing to large crowds in large markets. But after February 24, that more than likely will change as the foursome release their self-titled debut (which earns docking of points due to this reviewer's stubborn assertion that no one should name their debut after themselves until they have released at least a couple well-established albums).
The 13-track effort, which includes a spectacular cover of Colbie Caillat's 'Realize' won't totally blow you away if you're looking for something that sounds different from the rest of the pack of punkish power-poppers that are littering the landscape in the wake of Fall Out Boy's explosion 6 years ago. But they make up for that with their songwriting, which does not discriminate at all against one particular audience over another.
'Paint Me Envy' kicks off the debut and after listening to it a couple times, 'Camera Shy' would have been a better starter than the rather standard-issue 'Paint'. 'Paint' unfortunately sounds like every other song like it, be it Every Avenue's 'Where Were You?" or the Maine's "The Way We Talk'. If the foursome want to know how to start off an effort similar to theirs, they need to look at The White Tie Affair's debut album, which kicked off with "Allow Me To Introduce Myself' or All Time Low's debut EP, which started off with the uptempo ''Coffeeshop Soundtrack'.
'Camera Shy' on the other hand has a sound that will make you bounce and have you hang on every word and by the time it's done, you are finding yourself singing to the song. Much like what 'Coffeshop' did for ATL's EP and how it defined their sound, 'Camera' does the same thing to School Boy Humor, except that its the second track of the album rather than the first track.
'Turn It Up' continues the upbeat tempos the band has become well known for and the song's music will remind fans of punk-pop to All Time Low's 'Breakout! Breakout!". 'Good To Meet You' if the band had more exposure into the alt-rock mainstream landscape has a radio-friendly feel and it's another song you will find yourself at the very least clapping to.
One of the better tracks in my opinion is 'This Is Your Life'. It is good to see where a power-pop act is by seeing if they can ratchet down the upbeat tempos and rollicking rhythms the genre is known for and while it isn't a total ratcheting down, the song still pulls off a very nice change of pace from the previous 5 tracks. The track, whose song material is about how one needs to stay strong and move ahead with their life starts off slow and melodic before building into a crashing melodic crescendo. The work on the song is flawless and once again, is one of the better-crafted tracks on the album, showing off their versatility in the genre. 'Dont Look Back' is another one of the better tracks on the album, with its ultra-super charged catchy sound and lyrics. I'd love to see how this song does live in person one of these days, I'd imagine that the song would elicit the same kind of audience response as you'd see when All Time Low does 'Poppin' (Champagne)' or when The Academy Is is doing 'Summer Girl'.
'What If' hands down to me is the best track in the entire 13-track album. I always admire a band like them who can masterfully pull off the piano and acoustic guitar-driven number. What adds to the mastery is the four-part vocal harmony that creeps in every so often. Very few bands can pull that off (All-American Rejects and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus are among the few contemporaries that can and have). This song will give you chills and you will be playing this song over and over and over again.
This would be another song I'd love to see live to see how well it translates from studio to live stage.
The album ends with their cover of Colbie Caillat's 'Realize'. And unlike their own contemporaries, who slavishly try to copy the original spirit of songs they cover, School Boy Humor deconstructs the relaxed piano-driven original into a fast-moving, upbeat power-pop/punk ballad.
Overall, 'School Boy Humor' has more great moments than not and some of the not-so-shining moments is not necessarily the song material for the album, which outside of 3 or 4 filler tracks and a weak starting song, is more of the way the album was constructed. One of the problems I have with the album is that after listening to the EP several times, I noticed that in 'Camera Shy' and 'Cheating Myself' that the mild cursing that were in the original songs on the EP were gone from the album. I really hope that it wasn't done to suit a particular subset of fans in their fanbase. Nothing annoys fans of the power punk-pop genre than a band deciding that it needs to change its lyrics to suit a subset of fans. The other problem is the overall slick production. I really hope that they sound as good live as they did in this album. More often times than not, a band that subjects itself to slick production reveals itself to be terrible live...like Meg & Dia can be at times. Outside of these minor issues, the album is well-crafted and appeals to everyone from teen pop fans to fans of the current crop of power-pop bands today. This should be a must-have in anyone's collection of digital or physical music.
Alan Ho is the chief head at Musiqtone.com. You can contact her at email@example.com or fill out this feedback form below.