Despite some moments of promise and plenty of endeavor, Community Spirit leaves The Academic some way short of fully realising their potential.
After releasing their debut album Tales From the Backseat in 2018, and more recently the 2020 Acting My Age EP, Irish indie boys The Academic return on 16 July with another new EP, Community Spirit. Frustratingly not the second album many fans would have been hoping for, Community Spirit is a slightly underwhelming collection of songs exploring the transition between youth and adulthood, which sees the band struggle to release a proper follow up to their debut album.
Since working with Nick Hodgson of the Kaiser Chiefs on last year’s Acting My Age, the band have decided to take on self-producing for the first time, a move which perhaps explains the layers of nostalgia which run throughout Community Spirit. The four-piece open their newest offering with EP highlight ‘Not Your Summer’, an introspective tune which reminds listeners, “Maybe it’s not your summer. Maybe it’s not your year.” The lyrics seem more relevant than ever after the events of the past year, although the band are careful not to explicitly link their new songs to lockdowns. These ideas of isolation are intertwined with breezy guitar chords as lead singer Craig Fitzgerald explains: “Enjoying your own company can be a great thing, but it can also take its toll and that’s how I was feeling at the time, needing time away from myself.” The chorus is so catchy you only have to listen once for it to be stuck in your head for the rest of the day, and it is here where the band really shines.
On lead single ‘Kids (Don’t End Up Like Me)’, Fitzgerald takes lyrics he wrote as a teenager and reworks them into a song about never leaving your hometown, having no sense of direction, and calling your dad to tell him you’re a failure. Perhaps the EP’s most unknowingly exposing moment, through a song which feels disappointingly familiar, The Academic highlight themselves as lacking any self-awareness and originality. The song leaves you feeling like the band are never going to progress past their trusted EP format into the much awaited second album. There are moments of promise in songs such as ‘For The Camera’, where the band show positive progress moving on from the typical indie guitar sounds heard on the likes of debut standouts ‘Television’ and ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’ into something more experimental. New song ‘I Don’t See Good’ also tries hard to make an impression while fulfilling the need for a love song, however this is only a fleeting few minutes in an EP which seems to be made up mostly of unmemorable and indistinguishable tunes.
Despite these downfalls, The Academic still seem capable of highlighting their influences – notably The Strokes – while still maintaining a sound which is very much their own. However, what they are ultimately best at is producing an EP which frustratingly doesn’t continue the experimentation and excitement captured in the stadium-anthems of last year’s Acting My Age. You can’t help but compare them to fellow Irish bands The Murder Capital and Fontaines D.C., who have both made big moves in music over the last year. At the end of the EP, the prevailing feeling is not a sense of achievement for The Academic, but rather a voice at the back of your head which keeps on asking: if not now, then when?
Community Spirit is out now via Capitol Records. To preorder and find out more, click here.