During the mid-2000’s the poptasic “punk” sound ushered in by Fall Out Boy was insanely popular. There were a ton of bands who came along and manage to sound like the popular group and The Academy Is… was one of those groups. Sure, they may sound a bit like those other bands, but it’s their debut that should’ve made them stand out from the others. They have the catchy songs, the charming front man, and a great sound, but it’s the theme their debut seems to have that shows they weren’t just another emo band with pretty faces.
This album isn’t the best thing I’ve ever heard, but it’s better than I expected. I used to listen to a few of their songs when they first came out, but then I just forgot about them. It wasn’t until I heard those songs again recently that made me check out this album. Surprisingly, each and every song is good; there wasn’t a time where I was ready for a song to be over. If you’re looking for something that’s energetic, fun, and upbeat, then you should definitely check out this record. One of the best songs here is “Slow Down.” Everything about this track is pleasing: the way the music goes between soft and mellow, the lyrics about a failed relationship with someone with eyes for Hollywood are interesting, and of course its catchiness gets you singing along.
Another great song and the one that got me into the band is “Checkmarks.” Again, it’s catchy and really energetic, which gets you pumped up. Also, I think singer William Beckett sounds best here. On some of the other songs, it sounds like he’s trying too hard to impress us with his vocals skills, but here he just sounds natural. Though most of the songs are really upbeat and fun, there is one somber, deep track on the album. “Down and Out” begins with a slow, somber guitar melody that sets the mood for the song. When you look at the lyrics you discover that it seems to be about a girl who was in an abusive relationship and has finally decided to leave. And rather than telling us this, Beckett shows us the results of the relationship with the lyric: “Why, oh why do you wear sunglasses in the home when the sun went out about an hour ago/Life should not be that way.” It’s a bit different from what most of the album is comprised of, but it shows that they’re not all about catchy tunes.
What makes the album so interesting is that the theme of it seems to be about the journey of the band. A lot of the songs reference them trying to stay true to themselves despite their fame, people who didn’t believe in them, and how they are not here to please the critics. You can see these references the most on the track “Black Mamba.” This one is all about how they don’t care what the critics or the naysayers have to say about them. They only care about making good music for their fans. Another song that deals with this subject is “The Phrase that Pays.” This energetic song says that they are here to make it or break it and talks about how people are watching them to see if they’ll fall.
But if you missed these references, it’s loud and clear on the closing track “Almost Here.” The lyrics here discuss the beginnings of the band and taking chances “on truck stops and state lines,” in other words touring. Beckett also keeps singing “Hey now, we’re almost home/I’m missing you like hell,” which shows the sacrifices you have to make to get in the music business. And the line “my friends are dropping like houseflies” seems to be about people leaving them or not believing in them when they were trying to start the band. It’s a cool song with an interesting topic you don’t see many bands take on.
Overall, the album gets 8/10. It’s fun and full of upbeat, energetic songs filled with hooks for days. There wasn’t a single disappointing song to be found here and the way most of the tracks deal with fame and being a band, makes it stand out from other groups that came out around the same time. If you’ve only heard one of their songs, do yourself a favor and listen to this album. It’s actually really good and makes you think it’s a shame that The Academy Is… broke up in 2011.