Music fashion has a way of destroying history's big picture by shaving off the excess details. Sure, plenty of hot bands are happy to cite Joy Division and The Cure as influences, but what about the also-rans that filled out the scenes? What about Flesh For Lulu, Gene Loves Jezebel, and the other acts that found marginal immortality lining the walls of John Hughes characters' bedrooms, or painted in white-out on the back of discarded leather jackets? They also served, just not as memorably or as well. But once, they were just as full as promise as the next band. So which of the handful of bands emerging from the Interpol moment of post-punk-inspired, dark, groove-heavy angular rock will last? A handful of new releases provides some clues.
Best bet: San Francisco's Film School. The band has already released an album and an EP—occasionally working with Pavement guitarist Scott Kannberg—but never found a stable lineup apart from singer-guitarist Krayg Burton. On this self-titled second album, however, it sounds like a group that's been honing its sound for years. The lead single "On & On" invites inevitable Interpol comparisons, but finds its own take on the sound. But subsequent tracks like "Harmed" and "Like You Know," with their intricate rhythms and expansive atmosphere, are the ones that mark Film School as a band to watch. Right now, they're one unforgettable song from greatness.
The Birmingham band Editors, on the other hand, lead off their debut, The Back Room (out in the UK now, available here on March 21), with the best track: "Lights" is a miniature emotional tour de force where soaring, U2-inspired guitars collide with mopey sentiments. "Munich" runs with that inspiration, but from there, the album starts repeating itself and the returns start diminishing. It's never bad, but a great setup needs a great punchline.
Last, and in every sense least, there's She Wants Revenge, which serves as an object lesson in the difference between the phrases "inspired by" and "derivative of." A rote retread of Joy Division, right down to the put-on accent of rapper-turned-professional-sneerer Justin Warfield, She Wants Revenge replaces Ian Curtis' soul-baring angst with "edgy" lyrics sure to startle 15-year-olds who're just figuring out what S&M stands for. It's the mall version of the downtown sound, and its arrival might signal the beginning of its end.