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(Older reviews archived alphabetically by artist name.)

  Call It Blazing  
  A Classic Education  
  Lefse Records  
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Italian band A Classic Education are one of those groups which most critics seem to dismiss as a talented, yet not fully realized, Indie Rock band. Browse through the Internet and you'll come across numerous reviews of their debut album, Call It Blazing, that compare the music to that of The Shins, Deerhunter, and even The Pixies. And almost every single review ends with a comment stating that A Classic Education has a whole lot of unreached potential. So, Iím going to break a bit with this opinion and state outright that I really really like this band and find their debut album stunning in its own right.

I can understand why many critics aren't quite sure what to make of A Classic Education. Ostensibly Italian, but fronted by Canadian ex-pat Jonathan Clancy, the lyrics are sung in English and the music is a maelstrom of feedback instrumentation on all fronts. The tempo tends to be a little restrained and there's enough reverb on everything to make the listener hear instruments that aren't even present in the mix. It's a hard thing to comprehend and I can tell you, based on personal experience, that this level of echo is an acquired taste. Yet, I find the music engaging and catchy and, under it all, poppy in the best sense of the word.

With that out of the way, let's take a look at a few of the standouts and maybe I can explain what this band has to offer. Call it Blazing begins with a short track, Work It Out, which lays out the pattern for the entire record: echoed voice, strummed tremoloed guitar and a edgy, growing guitar feedback in the background. Afterwards, this flows directly into Baby, It's Fine, a song that pretty much defines what you will hear from this band. This tune is quickly paced with an insistent drumming mixed in a higher register. In the background you can hear alternating reverbed and feedbacked guitarwork, which combines into a echo wall of sound. I know somewhere within this mass, there must be some bass and keys, but they're not distinguishable amongst the individual song. Over it all, Clancy speaks/sings forcefully, but his voice is so reverbed that I can't really make out the lyrics. It's a happy tune taken together, but I can see where a listener without my love of echo would find it a little claustrophobic. Likewise, Grave Bird, a slower number driven by a martial-sounding snare and cymbal combination, drips with effects, although they don't take away from the nice vocal pattern Clancy evinces throughout. Interestingly enough, the melody such as it is makes a reappearance at the very end of penultimate track I Lost Time.

The longest track on Call It Blazing is Spin Me Round, which clocks in at just over 4 minutes. Here, the guitarwork is more in the background and comes across as less echoey than the other songs. Instead, the organ comes more to the forefront acting as a melodic counterpoint to the voice. It's not particularly slow, but it certainly isn't actively energetic. Instead, this one has a nicely meandering, shimmery sort of pace that makes all of the effects actually pretty in a retro-60s garage kind of way. In contrast, closing track Night Owl ventures into 6/8 territory, with the natural sway of the beat accenting the echoey feedback within the instrumentation and giving the whole proceedings a "haunted 50s prom" feel that is both exhilarating and warm. It's a lovely little tune that isn't subsumed by the reverb that seems to drip from every musical crevice.

Basically, all of Call It Blazing falls within these same structure, give or take. I can see why many people would find the wall of sound a bit off-putting, if only because these days you don't normally run into something so upbeat drenched in so much echo. That mix makes it difficult to place A Classic Education into a frame of reference, which is perhaps why other reviewers can't come quite to grips with the sound. Me? I don't have to conclude that A Classic Education have some nebulous potential. Rather, I'm firmly in the camp that this band already knows what it's doing and has made a commitment to its somewhat orthodox sound. And I like it a lot.

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