It’s never a good sign when you can summarise an album almost perfectly in stating only a few musical features. Unfortunately for Night School, their debut LP can be dubbed fairly conclusively as an assortment of pretty vocal melodies and harmony accompanied by distorted guitarwork. These hallmarks aren’t always present simultaneously, but usually the band are at their most musical when they run with that formula. Night School have cited Weezer as a major influence on the record, and to their credit, the likeness between their sound and LA’s original nerd-rockers is certainly noticeable at times.
Unlike Weezer, however, Night School’s departures from their distortion-driven, vaguely angsty yet vaguely summertime mixtape-y style are unconvincing. For example, the largely acoustic “Teen Feelings” comes off as slightly petty in its disaffected vocal style and sappy lyrics. As opener “These Times” proves, Night School work better when they’re sitting in their upbeat niche of gritty, though contained, guitar sounds. This style continues after “These Times”, but by third track “Casanova”, we’re ready to hear something more from the group. In all fairness, Night School have put together an album which has an effective trajectory about it. While it starts in a very Weezer-esque manner, at “City Kiss”, the album recoils into a more mellow, passive core. Despite the fact that this change in style has come at the right time, it is not particularly well executed, as the morose vocals and new lack of energy just seem to leave us deflated rather than interested.
On the whole, while they’re clearly most comfortable working with a specific formula, this formula alone wouldn’t have been enough to carry them over the line for a full album, and their attempts at diversifying from it aren’t particularly compelling. At best, the album features a few standout tracks and a lot of filler, and at worst, it lacks imagination across the board. I suspect it may be back to the drawing board for Night School in crafting their follow-up to this one.