The Cinematics | A Strange Education (TVT)

cd_cinematicsOn repeated listens, the once charming title track comes off as a watered-down ripoff of an earlier generation (Reagonomics, anyone?), despite the fact that Scott Rinning's vocals really are quite versatile and beautiful.

 

 

 

First there was "Break," the deliciously catchy single from the Cinematics' debut CD. It arrived last fall in EP form, an early teaser to the full-length which was released this year. As a standalone, "Break" is a nearly perfect retro-wave pop song. Sadly, I was disappointed by the rest of the EP, and eagerly awaited the Scottish band's full length to see if it really had the goods.

When the disc arrived, I played it every day for two weeks straight. Hooray! I wanted to shout. They had the goods! And then my attentions were diverted—ntrusions by another new release, a music festival, life itself. By the time I came back to A Strange Education, I wasn't so sure. Did it really hold up? Or was it merely a rehash of all that I loved back in the '80s?

To clear my palate, I took some more time off from the disc, listened to music that didn't induce dancefloor motions in the slightest. Now, with a clear-headed return to the Cinematics, I'm here to present a critical opinion of A Strange Education.

Or not. Let's face it: Some of these songs are utterly captivating and deserve to be heard on that merit alone; whether they impart anything substantial lyrically (they don't) or ground-breaking musically (again, no) is secondary where the Cinematics are concerned. The aforementioned "Break," I'm pleased to report, holds up with repeat listens. I'm a sucker for a line repeated in different contexts (i.e., chorus, refrain), and here you'll soon find yourself shrieking, "It's just a trick of the light, she said." (Don't fight it; it just works.)

Other songs that remain fairly strong when revisited are the quietly soaring "Human" (no, not the Human League song), the middling "Chase," and the nightclub-friendly "Keep Forgetting."

But it's the untitled disc closer, a stripped-down, acoustic number, that does for the Cinematics what nothing else herein can: Show true, undoctored talent, the hint of a unique vision—not to mention a vocal ability that is near Buckley-esque in its beauty.

On repeated listens, the once charming title track comes off as a watered-down ripoff of an earlier generation (Reagonomics, anyone?), despite the fact that Scott Rinning's vocals really are quite versatile and beautiful. Opener "Race to the City" breaks no new ground, either. And, despite some critics' accolades of the Beck cover "Sunday Sun," I still find it to be weak, not at all representative of what the band can do.

But then, the same could be said of A Strange Education as a whole, I suppose. It remains to be seen whether this hot young Scottish quartet can find and establish its own unique voice. That's not to say there isn't enjoyment to be had in spinning A Strange Education, because in the right mood it's more than entertaining; it's just to say that, well, we've heard most of it before. C+ | Laura Hamlett

RIYL: The Bravery, The Killers, Duran Duran

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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