Tag Archives: The School

Review: Wasting Away and Wondering

In the early months of this blog I published a post about Welsh pop band the School and their fab blend of 60s retro pop, twee and indie pop. Go here for two superb examples of their more Spectorious offerings highlighted in my ongoing series on modern Spector soundalikes.

https://cuecastanets.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/the-school-i-dont-believe-in-love-2010-you-make-me-hear-music-2012/

Last year the School issued their much awaited third longplayer and it’s been on my to-do list ever since to post a short review on here. I’m really bummed I didn’t get to do so earlier, but better late than never, I guess.

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As expected, ‘Wasting Away and Wondering’, the third offering from this great band, is every bit as enjoyable as their first two albums. And I recommend both highly!

Lead vocalist and main songwriter Liz Hunt is the band’s focal point and she really has a knack for churning out catchy melodies that could easily have emanated from the legendary cubicles of the Brill Building. The material is that good and really shows her appreciation for and understanding of that bygone era’s wide-eyed romanticism.

This is classic pop then, with a capital C. As such the album picks up right from where the second album left off.

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You can’t claim that the School reinvent themselves with this release but hey,… if it ain’t broke and all that.

For some, Liz Hunt’s vocals will undoubtedly prove a bit bland and undistinguished – she’s no Darlene Love, that’s for sure. But even though she’s not a soulful belter by any means, her pure, whispering tone is strangely comforting once you get used to it.

A song like ‘Don’t Worry Baby (I Don’t Love You Anymore)’ will have you check credits to see if you’re listening to a hitherto unknown Goffin-King song. Beautiful arrangement on this tearjerker that wouldn’t have been out of place on, say, a Shirelles album.

Then there’s the title track which is a more upbeat girl group-type track, right down to its faux Steve Douglas sax solo! It is also no surprise that the School throws in a fitting tribute to the Northern Soul sound by way of the snappy ‘Do I Love You?’ (not the Ronettes song, nor the Northern floorfiller by Frank Wilson.)

Sadly, this time around the School hasn’t recorded the type of full-on Wall of Sound tribute that graced their other albums, so we’ll have to do with the gloomy, Shangri-Las like ‘He’s Gonna Break Your Heart One Day.’ In spirit, I’m sure ‘Shadow’ Morton taps his foot approvingly.

The stand-out track for me though is ‘Put Your Hand in Mine’ with its pretty melody and a breathy Liz Hunt vocal that fits the mood of the song perfectly. Nice string arrangement too!

I can’t say enough good things about this band and I’m just happy that there are still musicians out there putting out heartfelt tributes to the girl group sound, the wall of sound and 60s pop in general. I’ll advise all Cue Castanets readers to check out all three releases by the School – I’m sure you’ll find something to your liking.

****½ stars out of six.

The School – I Don’t Believe in Love (2010) / You Make Me Hear Music (2012)

The School may be Wales’ best kept secret and I’ll tell you why with a double-video post.

So far this great band has released two albums; ‘Loveless Unbeliever’ from 2010 and ‘Reading Too Much into Things like Everything’ from 2012, and believe me, both contain timeless pop of the highest caliber.

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Fronted by lead singer and main songwriter Liz Hunt these guys & girls churn out incredibly catchy tunes that prove listening to 60s classic pop records is the perfect musical schooling. Who knows? Maybe that’s what their name is meant to imply? When you hear their songs it’s no surprise that they list the Ronettes, the Shangri-Las, the Beach Boys and modern bands like Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura as their main influences. Listen to any track off the School’s two albums, and you’ll quickly hear that they’ve sprung from the same wide-eyed romanticism.

Liz Hunt - is she listening to Rare Masters vol. II?
Liz Hunt at her pad – probably spinnin’ Phil Spector’s Rare Masters vol. II.

I really can’t recommend this band enough and look forward to their third album which is set for release next year. Both their past albums have had one bonafide Spector soundalike, so it makes sense to include both songs here.

It’s just so obvious from these two productions that the School sat down and said ‘Ok, let’s pull out all stops trying to make our own take on the Wall of Sound.’ And they’ve pulled it off marvelously! Just listen to ‘I Don’t Believe in Love’ when those fat, reverbed drums kick in after the male intro lead. Really cool! I’m wishin’ and hopin’ they’ll strike gold a third time on their upcoming album. They’ve certainly set up a beautiful tradition of ‘one Spector clone’ an album that I hope they’ll continue to honour.

‘I Don’t Believe in Love’ (2010)

‘You Make Me Hear Music (Inside my Head)’ (2012)