The Cinematics – A Strange Education
Record Label – TVT Records
Release Date – 06 March 2007
Coming about four years and a few dozen bands too late to the post-punk revival party are Glasgow, Scotland’s The Cinematics. Bands like Interpol and—on this side of the pond—The Killers have been trying to sound like Joy Division and The Cure for years. Needless to say, it’s never good news when a band is late to cash in on a movement that’s basically a derivative of a derivative. But, ridiculous nomenclature (post-punk revival?—I’ll be honest, I had to wikipedia the term) aside, the movement has produced some quality bands. However, with most of these acts already onto their sophomore release or further, the Cinematics’ debut, A Strange Education, feels a bit behind the times.
While not an out-and-out rehash, A Strange Education nevertheless has a stale feel to it right off the bat. The opener, “Race to the City” has a dancey beat and one of the catchier riffs you’ll hear this summer, but try to tell me it doesn’t sound like a less-depressed Morrissey singing a Clash b-side with a little ambient guitar work, a la The Bravery. I apologize for the multiple references, but you just can’t listen to this album without hearing echoes of any of a couple dozen bands; riffs culled from here, choruses lifted from there, melodies pilfered from somewhere else.
Not to say that the record is bad—it isn’t. There are actually some very good tracks on here. In fact, the opening few tracks are almost great. The aforementioned “Race” is a strong opener, with a powerful chorus and some cool guitar work towards the end. “Break” is bound to get your head bobbing and your blood pumping as it thrums away giddily. The title track showcases frontman Scott Rinning’s confident delivery, which goes from smooth to ethereal and everything in between. A charming, acoustic-based track, “Chase” really hits its stride in the final minute as Rinning chants, “It’s all so beautiful tonight” in what feels like one of the few flourishes of true original songwriting on the album.
The record quickly runs out of steam, however—especially on repeat listens. “Human” is sluggish and never really seems to go anywhere, sounding like a She Wants Revenge castoff. Their cover of Beck’s “Sunday Sun” is intriguing, but not daring enough. When they wrote “Keep Forgetting,” they must have forgot that the opening lick was already written by Franz Ferdinand (play it, then play “This Fire” and you’ll see what I mean). The closer, “Asleep at the Wheel,” is just asking for another ill-advised pun deriding the lifeless vocals, dull rhythms, and lackluster guitar work that rambles on for over six minutes.
Some of the other tracks along the way—most notably “Rise & Fall” and “Ready Now”—keep my attention after a few listens, due to hummable choruses and energetic riffs, but the rest are barely memorable, even after one listen. The “been there, done that” factor is off the charts for a majority of the songs here. Were a Cinematics track to come up on my shuffle a couple months from now, I’m convinced I would never be able to remember the name of the band.
They may play their instruments well, and they may have catchy beats, but everything else—from the lyrics to the song structures to the overall sound—is nothing we haven’t heard before. The most interesting thing about this band then, is, ironically, that they manage to sound like a band from 20 years ago and a band from right now at the same time. I suppose this is an accomplishment of sorts, but only because something like post-punk revival exists. You learn something new every day, I guess. A Strange Education, indeed.
Good review... You seem to have captured the feel of this album well. I found myself getting somewhat bored with it after a handful of listens too. However, several of the tracks do rock my socks off, so to speak. But overall, very well written review. And I do love these puns, you clever devil, you.