The School - Reading Too Much Into Things Like Everything

The School have studied hard, taking their lessons from ’60s pop and soul (and a spot of contemporary twee), and yet by keeping their curriculum so elementary, they risk missing out on the top grades.  Reading Too Much Into Things Like Everything, the bewilderingly titled sophomore effort from this charming Welsh octet, is twelve tracks of puppy love, dreamboats and petticoats.  This is sugary sweet throwback pop in the vein of Belle and Sebastian spin-off God Save the Girl, or a more sedate rendition of label-mates Camera Obscura.  Reading… is an album both  utterly inoffensive and radiantly positive, with just enough sleigh bells to remind the listener of Christmas carols and hallmark cards.

Lead singer and keyboardist Liz narrates the brief album with the innocence (or naivety) of a teenage girl’s diary musings.  She doesn’t really do subtlety (or extended metaphors). “Stop that boy he stole my heart” she sings before announcing shortly thereafter that “He’s too late, now my heart is filled with hate”. Of course, one isn’t likely to hear anything more intellectual on a album by Best Coast or Cults, but The School plough the same retro furrow without anything of their contemporaries’ tongue-in-cheek irony or musical intent.

The remaining seven members of the band fill around Liz’s simple words with consistently cute and peppy mid-tempo pop, heavy on piano chords, brass, organ, and a flood of handclaps.  At times it feels like a paint-by-numbers approach with brief, repetitive arrangements punctuated with plenty of “oh oh oh”s and “woah woah woah”s. There is a fair amount of accomplished musicianship on display.  Liz’s vocals are disarmingly pitch-perfect, the harmonies lush, the choruses infernally catchy.  Throughout the album there are glimpses of inspiration, such as the staccato introduction to ‘The Grass Is Always Greener’, or the spot-on funky organs of ‘Never Thought I’d See The Day’.  Indeed many of these tracks will probably sound great blasted out at midnight at quaint little rock n’ roll nights with the tempo bumped up, particularly ‘Why Do You Have To Break My Heart Again’. Ultimately, though ,as the name suggests, there’s simply a lack of maturity to the band. They’ve absorbed their history lessons well, but their own output remains a tad too derivative and simplistic to recommend wholeheartedly.