Ireland’s sons are first out the gates for the first release of one of the ‘Ones to Watch’ for 2018. Tales from the Backseat at first seems to be a boiling pot of indie pop, indie rock and pop punk, taking just enough of each to pique an interest from fans of all parties. The Academic at their finest here have unlocked the formula of early 2000s indie rock, taking the sugary sweet choruses and leaving a wave of nostalgia as the album closes; though this isn’t a surprise knowing the band bonded over a mutual love for bands like The Strokes, The Killers and The Kooks.
Opener ‘Permanent Vacation’ takes queues from some later indie bands like Circa Waves and The Wombats, packing enough punch to take the band undoubtedly through the UK festival loop this summer drawing hefty crowds. Unsurprisingly ‘Bear Claws’ is where The Academic really start showing off some skill. It talks about the difficulties of teenage relationships and being honest with yourself and others, written when the band were teenagers themselves. I think the real appeal here is the pop punk guitars/chorus that brings about a bout of Warped Tour nostalgia.
There’s a lot that could be said about ‘Different’, it has everything it needs to work but the lyrics wander territory that’s been explored one too many times, with nothing new to say on the matter. Regardless, if you listen with an open mind you’ll enjoy it. ‘I Feel It Too’ takes a more serious subject but still spins it in the same way The Academic have done for the rest of Tales from the Backseat, with rose tinted glasses. The chorus of this one and even the bridge are thoroughly planned to be the ones that get the audience going at gigs. ‘Bite My Tongue’ is another teenage romp gone by. Group vocals and claps layered under the chorus makes this song a clear front runner for the band’s encore.
The highest point in the album comes in the form of ‘Television’. There’s lots of layers that all work in sync. The song is a melancholy look upon old, tainted memories but it doesn’t feel hopeless. There’s a kind of bittersweet pain in front man Craig Fitzgerald’s vocal performance. ‘Girlfriends’ is an unfortunate mis-step for The Academic, while on paper it all works out, the lyrics are enough to have you squirming in your seat cringing.
If you take it with a pinch of salt then Tales from the Backseat is a promising start for The Academic. Knowing that they started life as a band playing parties, pubs and local school is no surprise with the odd cringe inducing lyric and the hefty sum of ‘whoa’s that no doubt go down well as people pleasers even if they are a little vapid after a while. Tales from the Backseat will without a shadow of a doubt see The Academic through festival season without a hitch, their songs pretty much made for the Radio 1 tent at R&L. Give Tales from the Backseat a listen here.