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Back to the future

Film School may not love the '80s, but we do


AV nerds unite! Its Film School!
  • AV nerds unite! Its Film School!

There's a void in our black hearts that all the mascara-soaked tears in the world couldn't fill.

It's been there for better than 20 years, and only now are we starting to understand how lonely we've been for a good '80s-sounding album. Sure, The Killers kept our attention for a few minutes, and The Bravery, well, 30 seconds, but only a few contemporary bands have succeeded in transcending the obligatory synth anthems toward something a little deeper.

This is why the latest, self-titled release from Film School is worth checking out. The San Francisco quintet combines Robert Smith vocals with Joy Division melodies and references half a dozen other underground bands from the Reagan era.

Too bad the band had something else in mind.

"Yeah, it's not really what we're trying to do, to be quite honest," says Film School drummer Donny Newenhouse. "I think what we're trying to do is write good songs, first and foremost. I'm sure everyone sort of says that, but for us, it's just like washy guitars. I actually don't even know where the Joy Division thing comes from at all. And as far as the Cure thing, our singer's voice sounds like that.

"I don't even own a Joy Division record," he adds. "And I think it's en vogue to make those references, more than anything else."

Sure, Newenhouse is right. Neo-new wave is the zeitgeist, and no longer ironic. However and I can't blame him for defending the band's self-image one listen to "On & On" had me checking the CD booklet to see if it's a Psychedelic Furs cover. It's not. But it could be.

Despite the influences, or accidentally similar sounds, Film School does possess a certain sonic appeal, combined with an up-tempo rock feel missing from other albums of its ilk. Perhaps that's what makes it so appealing. It's also a perfect platform for the band to space out live, giving audiences a ride into their universe, with dueling guitars leading the way.

And that, actually, is exactly what the five-piece had in mind when it set out to write this follow-up to 2001's Brilliant Career.

"Yeah, it's certainly a culmination of basically everybody sort of contributing," Newenhouse explains. "Brilliant Career was mostly Krayg [Burton, the band's founder] at the time, with guest players on it. Then I got in the band two years ago, and this is the first record that I really sort of worked on, and ended up producing a lot of it. I feel like this record is definitely a sum of it parts."

Exactly what that means may be interpreted varyingly, but Newenhouse is correct that Film School is a multi-layered album that requires a certain amount of attention to fully appreciate.

"Certainly, this new album is a headphone record," Newenhouse offers.

And invariably, for whatever reason, Film School perhaps is best listened to under the veil of candlelight, on the empty end of a bottle of wine.

"Yeah," Newenhouse agrees, laughing, "all of the above."

John Benson


Film School with Colder than Fargo and Cowboy Curse

Larimer Lounge,

2721 Larimer St., Denver

Monday, Feb. 27, 9 p.m.

Tickets: $8; check or contact

303/291-1007 for more info.

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