Eric Schackne

REVIEW: Indian School – ‘The Cruelest Kind’

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What if Arcade Fire was less of an ensemble and a little more punk rock?  What if The Strokes decided to play an upright on stage?  What if Audio Karate, a band I’d never heard of changed their name to Indian School and released an EP?  What if you just listen to Indian School’s latest release, The Cruelest Kind?  Let’s just hit play and see what happens.

With dueling clean guitars and a beautiful bright piano led by the tempo of a hi hat, Indian School wastes no time at the beginning of this record.  Lead singer Arturo Berrios’ affected lo-fi vocals undoubtedly bring The Strokes to mind, and the guitar parts add to that feeling.  This rock vibe has been done before, but it’s the busy jazz-infused piano dancing around in the background that keeps this track fresh.  The rockin’ subtly-reverbed intro to “Wind You Up” starts to show the band’s versatility and matured sound.  Another sing along chorus, they’re achieving an atypically surf-y feel.  Graced by a beautiful breakdown led by the piano, the drummer’s snare fill slingshots you into the final moments of the song.  It’s these organic elements that bring Arcade Fire to mind.

Throwing energy a different way, they take the third track to put an acoustic guitar in with the piano for the intro to “High Low.”  This one takes you pretty high up into a cloud of indie rock, classic rock and folk.  While there are moments where the tones don’t feel like they’re meshing, I’m  enjoying the sound of this album so far.  I hear a bit of extra vocals behind some of Berrios’ melodies, though I’d love to bring those out more.

No indie rock album is complete without a gratuitous electronic affected interlude.  Without specifically leading into the fourth track, we’re immediately being told to dance with the Killers-esque opening of “Rob Your House.”  The drums and synths will fill out the prechorus and momentum-filled chorus.  While I’m not a huge fan of their use of electronic elements thus far, they’re actually achieving these great punk rock moments with wailing vocals and guitar noise.

“Cocktail Flu” slows down the pace but only stays quiet for a quick phrase.  I’m loving how loud and anthemic this song is, and the instrumental breaks feel well-suited for the tune.  The simple folk notes of “Head Right” give my ears a chance to breathe.   Despite another case of the synth poking out too much, I’m enjoying this track.  The banjo and piano keep this one grounded.  Not for long though.  “Bowerbird” closes out the album with a soaring rock tune, giving me that last-day-of-school feeling.  I’m realizing now that the gritty nature of Berrios’ voice is what keep this track more punk rock than indie-dance rock.

While this band feels seasoned and full of talent, their sound is a little more about style to me than musicianship.  I enjoyed the record and wish great things for this new incarnation of Audio Karate.

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