Nu Shooz

Film School grows better as it grows older -- shoegazer comparisons be damned

Then, in early 2004, one of those typical good news/bad news situations occurred. Drummer Montesano quit the band due to family and work obligations, and, with only a few days remaining before leaving for SXSW, the band convinced Donnie Newenhouse, who had run sound for the group at Bottom of the Hill several times and operated his own recording studio, to join up. Suddenly, Film School had a dynamic thrust that had only been hinted at before.

"We've always had heavy songs, but maybe with him in the band it comes out more," Burton suggests. "The loud got louder and more ... not aggressive, but powerful."

"Ben's more laid-back and swinging; Donnie is more driving, more direct," says Lannon.

Film School: Older, wiser, still all indie rock 
and shit.
Film School: Older, wiser, still all indie rock and shit.


Thursday, Jan. 26, 9 p.m.


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Film School celebrates the release of its record on Thursday, Jan. 26, with a free instore appearance at Amoeba Music in S.F. at 6 p.m.

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Bottom of the Hill

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"I remember Scott [Kannenberg] said that at SXSW: 'God, you guys are really leaping off the stage now!'" says Burton.

With this newfound energy, the band went into Newenhouse's studio, re-recorded several old tracks, and sent them out to labels. In time, they caught the ear of one of the best and longest-running indie companies, U.K.-based Beggars Banquet.

It's easy to understand what the imprint saw in the band. Film Schoolfits snuggly within the label's discography, ably rubbing elbows with the euphoric buzz of the Pixies, the evocative synthestry of Gary Numan, and the epic sprawl of Mercury Rev. On its own, the song "11:11" encapsulates the last 25 years of indie rock, featuring as it does LaBo's bouncy bassline and Newenhouse's strutting drum pattern, Burton's serpentine rhythm guitar riff and Lannon's spasmodic feedback soloing, all topped off by Burton's angsty Robert Smith moan. Other songs are more single-minded: The delicate ballad "Sick of the Shame" features heavily treated vocals and chiming, Cocteau Twins-y guitar intermeshed with gauzy feedback textures, and "Like You Know" showcases the kind of psychotic, slow-building guitar epic that must make LIVE105's Axelson get out his old Doc Martens so he can gaze anew at them. Elsewhere, there's "Harmed," with its catchy, cascading organ melody, and "Breet," with its near-New Order strut and psychedelic whirling keyboard part.

One of the reasons Film Schoolsurpasses its precursors is that it took so long to make, and therefore includes so many different facets of the band. "Even in the last two years, I've seen them reinvent themselves several times," Axelson says.

"We always do this thing where we write a song and then we'll react to it," says Lannon. "We'll say, 'We don't want to do a song like last time; we want to do something different.'"

Not only are the songs more diverse, but each includes distinct melodies that beg to be hummed. This concept -- complex, interwoven parts brimming with accessible melodies -- is what puts the new album over the top.

With two recent European jaunts under Film School's belt as well as a big upcoming U.S. tour, it seems that Burton's father doesn't always know best. As for the shoegazer tag, it's really not that applicable. Then again, if the shoe(gazer) fits ...

"The 18- to 24-year-olds have no idea who My Bloody Valentine is," reasons Axelson, "so if listening to Film School helps them listen to them or Ride or Chapterhouse, great!"

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