Friday, September 4, 2015

Review: Wasting Away and Wondering by The School

The great thing about pop music is its ability to elevate simple, ordinary statements like "I love you" or "I'll see you soon" to the level of poetry, of high art, of grand drama. There's a perfect example of this on The School's new LP, Wasting Away and Wondering; the album's fifth track, Don't Worry Baby (I Don't Love You Any More), doesn't venture much further than the nine words that make up its title, and yet it somehow manages to wring gallons of tragedy and melancholy from the subject of breaking up:

A subject so well-worn and oft-explored that it shouldn't really have any emotional impact whatsoever at this point.

The School like to keep things simple, lyrically speaking - head girl Liz Hunt knows that, when it comes to writing pop songs, less is often more. Adding more words to Don't Worry Baby would only lessen its power; why write some verbose essay on love and loss when "I don't love you any more" sounds mountainously emotive on its own? The same goes for pretty much every other track on Wasting Away and Wondering:

"Do I love you? Do I love you? Oh, yes I do!" - Do I Love You?

"I really don't want to go now, but I'll see you soon" - I Will See You Soon

"I'm happy just to say that I've found you" - Love is Anywhere You Find It

Whether you're happy or sad, loved-up or heartbroken, pop music allows you to state your feelings in plain speech without it seeming silly.

Of course, while The School's lyrical content is fairly straightforward, their musical arrangements are a lot more involved. Wasting Away and Wondering is covered in thick, sugary layers of brass, strings, glockenspiel and keys (Liz doesn't have seven bandmates for nothing), all of which really help to bring the swooning emotion of each song to life. I'm particularly fond of the piano/violin interplay in Don't Worry Baby and the title track's swingin' horn part:

Wasting Away and Wondering is out today on Elefant Records. If you like simple love songs with intricate, nigh-orchestral arrangements and a big dollop of '60s-philia, you'd do well to buy yourself a copy.

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