The Academy Is...



by Dave de Sylvia EMERITUS
April 1st, 2007 | 20 replies

Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Distinguishing themselves from the shadow of Fall Out Boy and the like, The Academy Is… have emerged as a band with ambition and the songwriting skill to match.

I finally “get” the awesome Rachel Stevens single ‘Sweet Dreams My LA Ex.’ She’s in love with the airport!

Clever, but perhaps not.

‘LAX To O’Hare,’ the showcase track from The Academy Is…’s heavily-anticipated second album Santi, leaves no such room for ambiguity, kicking off with the bumbling line, “it was a plane ride!” from Los Angeles’ central airport to Chicago’s better half. The song’s reverb-laden clipped guitar chords and primal beat are somewhat of a departure for the band, being as they are more reminiscent of producer Butch Walker’s recent glam rock throwback album The Rise and Fall of Butch Walker and the Let's-Go-Out-Tonites than anything from their own catalogue. Walker’s influence is particularly heavy-to-bear on Santi, not least because his former sidekick, Aussie guitarist Michael Guy Chislett, has defected and become the fifth member of The Academy Is... Between them, with Chislett becoming a full songwriting member, they impress the virtues of pre-god complex U2 and the smartest glam rock upon their collaborators.

It’s been two years since The Academy Is… emerged from the same Chicago pop-punk scene that produced Fall Out Boy with their debut indie piece Almost Here, anticipating Wentz and Stumpy’s breakout album From Under The Cork Tree by a number of months. Frontman Will Beckett shares Wentz’s wit and flair and can dance around his higher register in a manner not dissimilar to Patrick Stump, but otherwise the similarities between the bands are more fleeting than substantial. Each housed by the highly incestuous Fueled By Ramen label, The Academy Is… stood by while their more radio-adapted cousins achieved international stardom; with their first record since upgrading to Atlantic Records The Academy Is… seem to have redressed the balance, whether by design or by circumstance, with a set of eleven stadium-sized pop anthems primed for radio rotation.

From the get-go, Santi aims for huge. Subtlety is sacrificed for bombast, and the influence of The Killers’ ‘When You Were Young’ can be heard in the opening bars of ‘Same Blood,’ while ‘80s U2 come to bear on ‘Seed’ via Edge-like delay-soaked blues chords and with Bono’s patented cooing during ‘You Might Have Noticed.’ Walker, for his part, has imparted some of the glam rock bug to the band; ‘Bulls In Brooklyn’ kicks off with a bassy drum part lifted from Gary Glitter’s famous goal celebration ‘Rock N’ Roll (Part Two),’ and the “heys” and “woahs” reinforce the association; Butch Walker lends an ascending-descending la-la-la chant to ‘Same Blood,’ reminiscent of his own ‘Ladies And Gentlemen… The Let’s Go Out Tonites,” and loans Beckett his strained vocal inflections on the dance-punk number ‘You Might Have Noticed.’ Even the more punk-based numbers from ‘Neighbors’ benefit from post punk junkie Chislett’s more textured approach, while ‘Chop Chop’ (once pencilled as the album’s title) brims with angular, eastern-tinged guitars.

Lyrically the album is disappointing, at least in comparison with Almost Here, as the words were only written in the days leading up to recording, but this also gives the vocals an improvised feel, despite the inanity of some of the subject matter. Ironically, lead single ‘We’ve Got A Big Mess On Our Hands’ and the aforementioned ‘LAX To O’Hare’ are the exceptions which prove the rule as both are examples of interesting writing and the loose delivery that's a constant feature of the album's tracks. ‘LAX To O’Hare’ recounts a “series of unfortunate events” that apparently land the singer in an improvised situation (oh no!), highlighting a momonetary fatigue with the fame game. ‘Big Mess’ is obviously geared for the stage, referencing Duran Duran with funky chorus catcalls and reflexive melody, while Beckett tells of having “that lefty curse, where everything that I do is flipped and awkwardly reversed.” That the same lyric that would be considered relatively unremarkable on Almost Here is one of the highlights of Santi says a lot, however, and the pedestrian lyricism is certainly one of the album’s major flaws and is compounded by the distinct lack of a central theme, or on some tracks a discernable theme at all, throughout the album.

Taken as a whole, though, Santi is a major step forward from Almost Here. Distinguishing themselves from the shadow of Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance and the like without sacrificing too many of the essential elements of their debut album, The Academy Is… have emerged as a band with ambition and the songwriting skill to match. Infectious melodies abound even if the lyrics are some way short of what we’d expect, and when a band demonstrates both the capability to craft strong melodies and insightful lyrics, it’s only a matter of time before they’re combined into some sort of “song sandwich.” And there’s no surer thing: some day soon, the members of The Academy Is… will all be making sandwiches for a living.

That may not have come out right...

Stream Santi:

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user ratings (236)
other reviews of this album
DaveyBoy EMERITUS (3.5)
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MissaIsAlmostHere (4.5)
The Academy Is... impressive overall on their second album. They've created their own sound (which i...

Comments:Add a Comment 
April 1st 2007


I think this is a pretty good record if you listen to it a couple of times but no tracks can be compared by the super-catchy tracks on Almost Here (Almost Here, Checkmarks, Slow down, The Phrase That Pays and so on)

The best track is Sleeping With Giants (Lifetime)

The Jungler
April 1st 2007


This doesn't sound like something I would like in the least bit. I remember listening to [parts of] their first record and thinking it was just okay, but this seems a whole lot worse.
Nice review though.

April 1st 2007


It's not better than their other album, but it's not bad.

Staff Reviewer
April 1st 2007


I can't recall if I've ever heard these guys but I know of them. One of my neighbors two years ago was big on pop-punk whose bandnames don't start with "blink" or "green," so I may have heard them in passing because she was the only person who actually gave a lick about music. On that note, fuc[font=verdana]k[/font] Honors College kids at my uni save for a select few. Good review blahblahblah you know how you roll.

April 1st 2007


The whole Butch Walker endorsement peaked my interest a little, but I didn't like their last disc so I doubt I'll check this out.

April 1st 2007


I hated what I heard of this, but I'll more than likely get it sooner or later. Great review as always.

The Jungler
April 1st 2007


Couldn't they have picked a decent album cover?

April 2nd 2007


Meh, I got this. It's not as bad as I thought it'd be, but it's no better than their debut. It's catchy, but lacks substantial material to make it any more memorable than Almost Here. Props to them for securing a sound that doesn't sound like Fall Out Boy, but it lacks the panache of the similar sounding The Rise and Fall Of Butch Walker and the Let's-Go-Out-Tonites and Infinity On High. If anything, Almost Here seemed tighter as a whole. TAI strive to be different with Santi by trying for other sounds, and while it's admirable, it's not memorable.

April 2nd 2007


Good review as always Spat out Plath. Though the only reason I did read it cause my name is Santiago and everyone calls me Santi. So that was funny to see an album named Santi.

April 2nd 2007


Looking forward to listening to this album. I loved Almost Here, and have Santi on my mind, along with the new Daphne Loves Derby album. Although this year hasn't been good for rock and roll, because The Early November, Matchbook Romance, Hidden In Plain View, etc. all perished this year to name a few. All the bands I listened to in high school are slowly vanishing. Why does this have to happen? Rock bands just don't have the power like they did in the seventies! Maybe someday rock will come back and be forever powerful. Anyways on a lighter note we must look to the future for content so enjoy-

"Tyler Read" has a new album coming out on 4-17-07. Only one word to describe it- awesome!!! I have mine on preorder. Do you? That is the question. Today is a glorious day, in which all should listen to my favorite band, “Tyler Read". It bears repeating for the last time Tyler Read is like WOW!!! Go to their myspace. I'm currently trying to design a fan-site for the near future; I can't wait. Listen or fall into the trap of repetitive motion. Music is everything that pulls us together in this world, so as the Beatles say, lets "Come together" and listen.

April 2nd 2007


Tyler Read, we know that's you. Shameless self promotions aren't tolerated here!

April 2nd 2007


I heard one of their songs on the TV just there, not bad.

April 3rd 2007


Man thats harsh! Oh well, I guess us Santiago's will hold a bad name for quite sometime now.

April 8th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

I disagree on the account that Santi's lyrics are actually much better. Now I can play these guys in the car without feeling like a 15 year old school girl who heard her definition of "emo" from MTV.

April 8th 2007


It's definitely more grown up, but it doesn't necessarily have to be well written to get the response Nath talked about. I just think people are mistaking grown up lyrics with improved lyrics.

April 8th 2007


i liked the single and "seed"
iv yet to hear anything else

April 12th 2007


I love this cd beyond belief.
At first I was dissapointed, but it has grown on me, I'd have to say I like it more than almost here. I love their new sound.

This Message Edited On 04.11.07This Message Edited On 04.11.07

August 13th 2007


hmm i didnt get as into this cd as i did with almost here. His melodies kinda lacked, in my opinon. though the guitars and so on were pretty impressive. it took me a couple times to actually listen to the whole thing.

July 29th 2008


very good record. im quite pleased to know their new album HIGH TIMES AT BARRINGTON HIGH sets off august

November 6th 2010


Sleeping With Giants is easily my favourite song from these guys, absolutely love it.

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