Monday, April 08, 2024

English Teacher explores place, politics and potential on ‘This Could Be Texas’

‘This Could Be Texas’, the highly-anticipated debut album of Leeds post-punk group English Teacher is a self-reflective collection of experimental time signatures, ruminations on lost love, and effortlessly witty socio-political commentary. 

Having signed to Island Records in August 2023 and announced the album shortly after, English Teacher rapidly gained notoriety as one to watch. And it has certainly delivered. 

‘Albatross’ is the ideal opener, setting the tone for what’s to come. As an opening track, it feels like slowly being lifted off your feet and beckoned into space. The syncopated guitar stabs at the end establish the feelings of insecurity, which are further explored later on in the album.

Released as a single in August, ‘The World’s Biggest Paving Slab’ is a no-nonsense track, offering the ideal teaser of what was to come. Bearing a cyclical, memorable riff on its sleeve, and adorned with characteristically witty and absurd lyrics warning audiences to “Watch their fucking feet”, the song is perfectly situated on the album. As frontwoman Lily Fontaine described to the FADER, the track is about delusions of grandeur and inferiority from the perspective of a small town’s local celebrities. The dream-pop wash of the chorus guitars draws from shoegaze pioneers like The Cocteau Twins and Slowdive

Following on, ‘Broken Biscuits’ is cacophonous and cinematic. The song is littered with amusing lines on social causes, notably “Blame the council, not the rain”. As the song crescendos at the end, an eclectic range of brass and string instruments are introduced, leading the listener to believe it’s all going to culminate somewhere, but then it drops out almost as rapidly as it begins. 

‘I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying’ is delightfully cyclical, and its lyrics are plagued by dissociation: “I’m not near/ I’m not here/ I’m not there”. The repetition of the defining hook evokes an atmosphere of paranoia. ‘Mastermind Specialism’ released as the third single from the albumtakes the mood down a notch, offering a stripped back, sedate meditation on decision paralysis. The track is almost painfully relatable to anyone in their twenties: “No career, no religion/ Another year, no precision”. 

Next, the title track ‘This Could Be Texas’ is endearingly simple yet filmic, hallmarked by a bright piano and contrasting, haunting lyrics: “That country is in a bad state/There’s a familiar atmosphere about the place.” As explained by Fontaine to The Line of Best Fit“I want this album to feel like you’ve gone to space and it turns out it’s almost identical to Doncaster. It’s about in-betweens, it’s about home, and it’s about Desire Paths”. 

Beginning with a dissonance of bright, bitcrushed synths, ‘Not Everybody Gets To Go To Space’ offers something a little different. Before long, English Teacher’s distinctive plucky guitars and offbeats are reintroduced. The final buildup is almost haunting, and the refrain meditates on class differences using the metaphor of space travel: “Who’ll build the ships/ And who’ll bring them back again?”. The outro is resounding and powerful, and, fittingly, the song feels like it grows more distant as it nears its end. 

‘R&B’ is carried by a deep grinding bass, and is one of the heavier and more upbeat songs on the record. The song is quite literally about writing for R&B, a genre which most people assume frontwoman Fontaine works in. The chaos of the song elevates the feelings of anxiety and lack of belonging that are established earlier on in the album. 

Maintaining the same high energy, the compelling and buzzing ‘Nearly Daffodils’ is a crescendo of frustrations of unfulfilled potential in a relationship. The masterfully played, warbling bassline echoes influences from contemporaries like Black Country and New Road; The abrasive, driven guitars in the post-chorus, accompanied by Fontaine’s monotone vocal melody, are reminiscent of post-punk trailblazers The Fall. Fontaine’s versatile vocals shine through on this track, bringing out the insecurity of the lyrics. It’s easy to imagine this song being a fan favourite in a live set. 

‘The Best Tears Of Your Life’  features a heavily autotuned vocal melody from Fontainean unfamiliar element in English Teacher’s discographybut not unwelcome. Similar to ‘This Could Be Texas’ and ‘Not Everybody Gets To Go To Space’, the song accumulates more energy and dynamism as it progresses. ‘You Blister My Paint’  is a glorious, dreamy ballad that sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack for a Wes Anderson film, illustrating the capabilities of English Teacher’s sonic soundscape.

The penultimate track, ‘Sideboob’, follows on perfectly. Marked by a lethargic drum beat and atmospheric synth pads, the song brings a little smile to your lips with its words: “As the sun sets on the Sideboob / So I fall for you”

The mesmerising final track, ‘Albert Road’, explores Fontaine’s experience of growing up mixed-race. The lyrics are cutting: “The world around us never showed/How loving can be fun”, and the song grows in vibrancy and intensity as it goes on. It’s arguably the most emotional and sincere track on the album, drawing directly from a very personal place, unordained with metaphor, unlike earlier songs. With a grand culmination that concludes abruptly, ‘Albert Road’ makes you feel like you’ve been sucked out of a portal and dropped right back onto your living room floor. 

With ‘This Could Be Texas’, English Teacher demonstrates its sonic and lyrical finesse while showcasing an exciting, mature progression from its first EP, ‘Polyawkward’. The band is set to embark on its biggest UK headline tour to date this May, and it’s not difficult to imagine this endearing eclecticism of songs buzzing into life on stage and transporting audiences into an otherworldly realm for a night. 

Lina Adams


Image: 'This could be Texas' Official Album Cover

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment Here;