English Teacher – ‘This Could Be Texas’ review: a band who dare to dream

English Teacher – ‘This Could Be Texas’ review: a band who dare to dream

Not everybody gets a time to shine,” muses English Teacher’s Lily Fontaine on the suitably star-gazing ‘Not Everyone Gets To Go Space’ from their long-awaited debut ‘This Could Be Texas’. It’s a tongue-in-cheek line that also pragmatically lays out the logistical nightmare and societal issues that a free-at-the-point-of-delivery intergalactic travel system would create for us normies. A pretty perfect encapsulation of the band’s marriage of the fantastic and the everyday, and a pithy reminder of where we’re at.

READ MORE: English Teacher on the cover: a vital voice from the heart of UK guitar music

There have been a lot of headlines of late about how totally impossible it’s becoming for musicians, artists and creatives to exist – let alone thrive. Venues closing, streaming services not paying out, shareholders laughing at us, and opportunities disappearing: see some sad-but-true points made by James Blake, Another Sky, BRITs champion RAYE and The Last Dinner Party in their correction of those out-of-context “cost of living” comments.

Yes, doom surrounds us, but so does talent. If you’re mourning a drought of decent new bands, please find the nearest bin. The year is still young and you’ve already been spoiled with stellar first albums from NewDad, SprintsWhitelands and Lime Garden, for starters. The odds are stacked against these bands, and yet they deliver. Leading the charge are Leeds’ own English Teacher.

Another set of dry and talky post-punkers, they are not. Heavenly album opener ‘Albatross’ lays the table nicely with some gorgeous indie-prog string and piano work with a smack of ‘90s peak Radiohead. Buzz-generating single ‘The World’s Biggest Paving Slab’ delivers a rollocking ode to the little guys with big ideas – namely fellow Northern legends the Pendle Witches, John Simm, Lee Ingleby and The Bank Of Dave – vowing that “no one can walk over me”.

That defiance carries through to the lilting ‘fuck the Tories’ vibe of ‘Broken Biscuits’ as Fontaine demands someone take responsibility: “Can a river stop its banks from bursting? Blame the council, not the rain”. ‘R&B’ is a jagged fiery revenge song that sees the singer spit back at misplaced presumptions about her race and place in music: “despite appearances, I haven’t got the voice for R&B”.

The utterly gorgeous ‘Albert Road’ will speak to anyone who remembers bittersweet moments of boredom and frustration, and teenage daydreaming themselves out of the wire in working class neighbourhoods. As Fontaine offers: “So don’t take our prejudice to heart, we hate everyone” and refreshingly concludes without irony or patronisation: “That’s why we are how we are, and that’s why we don’t get very far”.

You’ve probably heard English Teacher compared to Squid and Black Country, New Road, but there’s so much colour on the palette of this record than you may have thought. The moments of weight are always lifted by joyful and curious twists, the pathos by a human humour, and the mathier bits are never too wanky. ‘The Best Tears Of Your Life’ sees cyborg sounds and an orchestra totally in harmony, while the pure soulful balladry of ‘You Blister My Paint’ is a totally different approach to a tearjerker.

‘I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying’ glistens like The Smiths’ ‘The Headmaster Ritual’ put through the prism of Jonny Greenwood as Fontaine rolls through a stream of consciousness of her doubts. The album centrepiece is the title track, however, as it carries that lightness of touch with its nursery rhyme feel before building into kaleidoscopic art-rock wig-out and drifting back down to earth. What a ride.

What you have in ‘This Could Be Texas’ is everything you want from a debut; a truly original effort from start to finish, an adventure in sound and words, and a landmark statement. Poised for big things? Who knows if this industry even allows that anymore. Here are a band already dealing in brilliance, though – who dare to dream and have it pay off. Not everyone gets to go to space, but at least English Teacher make it a damn site more interesting being stuck down here.


Release date: April 12
Record label: Island Records

The post English Teacher – ‘This Could Be Texas’ review: a band who dare to dream appeared first on NME.

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