Album Review by Mark Bayross
The debut album from Preston School Of Industry, the new band of ex-Pavement guitarist Spiral Stairs (Scott Kannberg to his Ma) may not contain much in the way of surprises, but should certainly ease the pain of his old band’s demise.
Self-produced and recorded on 16 track in California, the vibe of the record is defiantly lo-fi and some of its subject matter deliberately obtuse – ENCYCLOPEDIC KNOWLEDGE OF, for instance, is about a friend of the band writing a dissertation on encyclopaedic novels. Nonetheless, there’s enough here that will sound familiar – evoking The Fall, The Bunnymen and even The Cure in places, but all fuzzed out with a typically hazy West Coast drawl.
Three of these songs were actually originally written for Pavement’s TERROR TWILIGHT album – THE IDEA OF FIRES, ENCYCLOPEDIC KNOWLEDGE OF and first single WHALE BONES – and recorded at Gary Young’s studio.
The remainder, augmented by Andrew Borger (Tom Waits’ drummer) and Jon Erickson (Moore Bros bassist), sees Kannberg push his sound much further than he ever dared. For every howling guitar-masher (HISTORY OF THE RIVER), there’s a beautifully melodic, string-soaked ballad (MONKEY HEART AND THE HORSE’S LEG). For every barrage of random electronics (the tape-spooling sample at the end of DOPING FOR GOLD), there are glorious touches like the New Order-style tenor bass underpinning the choruses of THE IDEA OF FIRES.
The record ends, as all albums of heartfelt alt-country-rock should, with the piano-driven bar room ballad TAKE A STAND, and as the guitars twist their way towards the horizon, you can hear the confidence loud and clear.
An assured, attention-grabbing debut.