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Friday, February 22nd
The Critics Corner: Albums
Kings of Leon
The Academy Is - Fast Times at Barrington High
Chicago band eschews musical integrity for catchiness in third effort
Fast Times at Barrington High Name: "Fast Times At Barrington High"
Label: Decaydance/Fueled by Ramen/Atlantic
Release Date: August 19, 2008
My rating: 3.5 out of 5

Review written by: Cristina Carrazza
Before it’s release, “Fast Times at Barrington High” caused a lot of controversy for The Academy Is fans. They, myself included, were worried that the band would give up its punk vibe for a more mainstream sound. From the cover to the first single, some of our fears came true. Now that their third album was released, The Academy Is presents a collection of songs that is far from the band we have known to love.

The album opens with the single “About A Girl.” With its catchy melody and chorus, this upbeat summer anthem depicts the overall tone of the album. At first listen, the vocals sound completely different from that striking, unique voice William Beckett made us fall in love with back in the day. It is no surprise that this song has gotten the band recognition in shows like “The Hills;” it definitely sounds more mainstream than anything the guys have done in the past.

“Summer Hair = Forever Young,” the new single,  follows with the same pattern from the previous track. The chorus is again extremely catchy, as it talks about themes of love and youth.  The guitar rifts in “His Girl Friday” are definitely the best of the whole album. It is yet another upbeat song with extremely catchy, repetitive lyrics.

“The Test” slows down the pace of the album. It gives the listener a break from the upbeat choruses of the previous tracks. The guitar part accompanies the harmonies of the chorus very nicely. This is probably one of the best songs of the album.

Picking up the catchy beats once again is “Rumored Nights.” The instrumentals during the verses are very well done. The lyrics from this track seem to show an improvement, showing us that the old The Academy Is still exists. “Automatic Eyes” sounds like the first three tracks: catchy guitar parts, with high-pitched vocals and simple lyrics. "Crowded Room" is one of those songs that has an outstanding verse but a disappointing chorus. The harmonies during the first and second verse are very well done. The bridge and chorus however, sound just like every other track on the album.

"Coppertone" slows things down once again. The guitar part is extremely unique but the lyrics and vocals are nothing out of the ordinary. "After The Last Midtown Show" is a nice slow song. It provides a nice change of pace. This is probably the best vocal track of the entire album and one of my favorites. Following is the upbeat guitar driven "Beware! Cougar!" The verses and the chorus seem pretty disconnected. But again, this song is mostly remarkable for its catchy chorus, though the piano driven bridge provides a nice change. "Paper Change" is yet another song characterized by its catchy instrumental and vocal chorus. Finishing up is "One More Weekend." This was a good move, considering this is one of the strongest tracks on the album. The song brings back those guitar driven, fast-paced verses and choruses we all love. The vocals during the chorus are one of the best of the album. The bridge is outstanding both instrumentally and vocally. The lyrics tie up the themes of the album nicely.

If you want a fun album to take you back to those summer days, then this is a record for you. It is definitely fun and catchy. The lyrics will be reminiscent of your High School days. This is definitely a fun album if you want to take a stroll down memory lane and just have some fun. Everything from the track titles to the album cover provide an anthem for teenagers. However, if you were expecting a better version of “Almost Here” and “Santi” then you will be disappointed. The band loses its distinct vocals and instrumentals and trades them for a more mainstream sound. It seems that every song on the album is exactly the same. Hopefully the guys will rock these songs live and give us a taste of the Academy Is we have come to love.

Shannon LyonsCristina Carrazza is the assistant regional head for the Midwest region for Musiqtone.com. You can contact her at cristinacarrazza@musiqtone.com or fill out this feedback form below.

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