The Academy Is...
Fast Times at Barrington High


3.0
good

Review

by Davey Boy STAFF
September 4th, 2008 | 54 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Academy Is… return to high school & attempt to recreate their debut album, but disappointingly fall short

Despite the vastly differing timelines, the album progression shown by The Academy Is… (T.A.I) on their first three full-length releases is not too dissimilar to that of the three most recent Jimmy Eat World (J.E.W) albums. Both American artists made excellent pop-rock LP’s with T.A.I’s 2005 release ‘Almost Here’ arguably matching J.E.W’s 2001 effort ‘Bleed American’. The two bands then followed up with albums (‘Santi’ and ‘Futures’) which were more mature, varied and experimental, without matching the quality of their predecessors. These releases were not as commercially successful as the bands and labels had expected, so with the third albums in this comparison, both groups attempted to recreate the magic that had previously proved so fruitful. J.E.W struggled with 2007’s disappointing ‘Chase This Light’ and T.A.I unfortunately fall into the same trap with ‘Fast Times At Barrington High’ (FTABH).

This album begins promisingly enough as a case could reasonably be made that the opening three tracks are the best that FTABH has to offer. At the very least, they appear to be the most likely to be released as singles. The fittingly titled opener ‘About A Girl’ was chosen as the lead single due to a chorus of sing-along harmonies eventually wearing the listener down in amongst the background of an above-average, if slightly generic, combination of pop-punk and arena-ready pop-rock. Better though are the two following tracks, ‘Summer Hair = Forever Young’ and ‘His Girl Friday’, as both cuts are more immediate and accessible due to their contagiously poppy choruses. Yet, it is arguable that none of these three songs are as effective as the highlight tracks from ‘Almost Here’ (‘Slow Down’, ‘The Phrase That Pays’, ‘Attention’ & ‘Down And Out’).

Musically, T.A.I may be one of the tightest bands of their genre and they do indeed prove that here with everything right where it should be, especially the guitar hooks and clearly noticeable drums. However, the composition of this group of 12 songs is disappointingly unimaginative and safe, ultimately not allowing the band to sufficiently show the skills that surprised some listeners on ‘Santi’. Furthermore, talented lead vocalist William Beckett seems to need a motivational coach to tell him that he is in fact better than he thinks he is, as he too often goes through the motions here, leading to many cuts (especially their choruses) sounding the same. See ‘The Test’, 'Automatic Eyes’ and ‘Coppertone’ as examples of this.

It is of no surprise then that the noteworthy standouts of the final three-quarters of this album are those where Beckett does indeed vary his vocals. Track 5 ‘Rumored Nights’ impressively includes effective changes such as falsetto passages, layered vocals and subtle pace-switching in amongst the lyrical content of learning about a girlfriend’s indiscretions. Later, track 7 ‘Crowded Room’ includes a muffled vocal beginning (assisted by Gabe Saporta of Cobra Starship and Mason Musso of Metro Station) which suggests something different and exciting. And the band delivers with a faster punkier vibe which is highlighted by an energetic & anthemic chorus that is full of fist-pumping sing-along qualities.

‘After The Last Midtown Show’ is the token ballad of the album and by far the longest track of FTABH at 5:13. Piano-assisted (with the help of Andrew McMahon of Jack’s Mannequin), this is an effective enough piece, but in no way outstanding like other thematically similar songs that many bands have performed in the past. In its defense, it may be the track which is most likely to improve after repeated listens over a sustained period of time. Almost all other cuts may be more involving in the moment, but their lasting value has to be questioned.

Some listeners may be put off by the fact that it is glaringly obvious that the lyrics included on this album are aimed at teenagers. It is part of the reason why the ‘About A Girl’ title of the opener is so fitting as there are many tracks which are indeed about a girl. But there are just as many which are clearly about life for a teenager at high school... So much so that it is a surprise that there is no song titled ‘About A High School’! In fact, there even appears to be a loose concept of sorts running through the album. This is especially the case with the 2 solid closing tracks ‘Paper Chase’ and ‘One More Weekend’. The former is an old-school pop-punk cut concerning graduating, while the latter deals with moving on to the next stage of life.

Make no mistake about it; ‘Fast Times At Barrington High’ is by no means a bad album. It is merely a safe and inoffensive one. It is difficult to choose a lowlight from the 12 tracks contained within, making this release more consistent than ‘Santi’. However, that does not necessarily make it a better one. And there is definitely no comparison to the much more memorable ‘Almost Here’. The Academy Is… have unfortunately got a little lazy on their third full-length album, resulting in what is ultimately a rather generic sound that many other pop-punk bands are currently playing. That is a real shame as they have clear breakout potential and under-rated talent. Someone really does need to tell them that they are indeed better than they think they are.

Recommended Tracks: Summer Hair = Forever Young, Crowded Room & His Girl Friday.



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user ratings (198)
Chart.
2.9
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
bastard
September 4th 2008


3435 Comments


this reads like an album that should be rated 2.5

still, good review Daveyboy.This Message Edited On 09.04.08

foreverendeared
September 4th 2008


14678 Comments


i think you put bands and albums into acronyms too much, but other than that good review

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
September 4th 2008


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks for the feedback guys.
Bastard, I think there are enough positives listed on the review to suggest it is a 3. For mine, it is actually closer to a 3.5 than a 2.5, but I can see why people would think otherwise.
FOREVERENDEARED, you may be right on the acronym point. I can assure you that I would rather not do it, but when band and album titles continue to be 3 words or longer, it can really stretch the review's length out. Having said that, acronyms do sometimes make for awkward reading.

SnackaryBinx
September 4th 2008


2309 Comments


was never really a fan of The Academy Is... and I don't think I'll be checking this out, but good review though.

Pos'd

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
September 4th 2008


4927 Comments


not surprised. I was planning on reviewing this but then I heard the first track

Erratic
September 4th 2008


1120 Comments


Don't like these guys, but nice review.

Serpento
September 4th 2008


2351 Comments


Almost Here was so promising for the future, then they release Santi and now this? =/

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
September 4th 2008


16089 Comments


not surprised. I was planning on reviewing this but then I heard the first track


DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
September 4th 2008


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

John (SNACKARY BINX), thanks for the pos. And thanks for the positive feedback ERRATIC. If you're not a fan of The Academy is..., then this album will not win you over.
SERPENTO, while I wasn't the biggest fan of 'Santi', I did recognize why the band released that album and thought that it was important in their growth one way or another. Unfortunately, it seems that they learnt very little from the experience unfortunately. That's why this album is quite disappointing.
RYAN & JOHN, I suppose I should thank you for skipping the review and allowing me to get in first. The opener & lead single is about at the midpoint of quality on this album. I think it is safe to say you guys will probably not like this at all.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
September 4th 2008


16089 Comments


the first single from Santi is still the only Academy Is song ive ever wanted to listen to again.
and thats only because it got me >< this close to getting laid

plane
Staff Reviewer
September 4th 2008


6094 Comments


not surprised. I was planning on reviewing this but then I heard the first track


DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
September 5th 2008


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Add Lewis to the list of staffers who passed this up. Any more?
And LOL at your comment John. What's even funnier is that the first single off of 'Santi' was called "We've Got A Big Mess On Our Hands". How appropriate!!!

Jom
Staff Reviewer
September 5th 2008


2688 Comments


Yeah, great review, congratulations on the frontpage feature. Their other stuff is pretty forgettable, so it seems like this would follow suit.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
September 5th 2008


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks for the positive feedback on the review and congrats on the feature, guys. I appreciate it.
Dave (SpatOutSexyMen), I was almost certain you would sneak in a with a review of this before me, as while your rating of their previous album 'Santi' wasn't exactly high, I had the feeling that you felt the band was maturing and that their next album would make or break them.
I'm unsure that Fast Times At Barrington High will break them, but I very much do not think it will make them either.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
September 6th 2008


16089 Comments


This album will probably literally keep them at the popularity they are at now, lasting them until a make/break album in prolly 2010.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
September 6th 2008


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah, fair call John. Although, I think they missed an opportunity to expand their fan-base here. They have lived in the shadows of Fall Out Boy and Panic At The Disco for far too long.

One thing I didn't mention in my review that I had noted was that it was less than 18 months between the release of 'Santi' and this album. I can't help but think that was too rushed a timeframe and they would have been better off waiting until early next year with an improved batch of songs or made adjustments to the tracks which were included.
This Message Edited On 09.06.08

AtavanHalen
September 6th 2008


17927 Comments


The new stuff was fairly fun live. But they got blown off the stage by Panic :D

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
September 6th 2008


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Ahhh, you ended up going to that gig, did ya Dave...??? I was to'ing and fro'ing for a while on whether to go myself, but didn't end up doing so due to a combination of factors (TAI's new album had not quite been released as yet, PATD's new sound had not won me over and the large arena setting was putting me off).
How was the concert overall...??? Was it worth the money (as tickets weren't exactly cheap)...???

AtavanHalen
September 6th 2008


17927 Comments


Of course I was going to go- Panic are one of my absolute favourite bands.
The arena came together, they had a fantastic set up on stage and the sound was surprisingly clear and wonderful.
Cobra Starship were terrible, TAI... were quite good, but Panic was really worth it. They did awesome renditions of both new and old stuff. Definitely worth my $85.

SnackaryBinx
September 6th 2008


2309 Comments


$85!?!!?! Good christ man, there's a point where I say no. I'll stick with random hardcore shows in my area with low ticket prices.



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