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Charm School

Bishop Allen

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Album Review

Charm School gets off to a joyful beginning with handclaps, duets, and a definite '60s rock sound similar to The Kinks on the title track. And for the next dozen tracks, the listener receives an ample amount of this infectious sound. Bishop Allen frontmen and lead singers, Justin Rice and Christian Rudder, weave another simplistic yet adorable pop tune on "Little Black Ache." Although the sound is retro, the polish Bishop Allen brings to each number is unmistakable. "Busted Heart" is a bit rougher around its sonic edges. The vocals range from resembling Les Claypool on the first verse, to Wilco on the second, while the guitars grow slightly louder. "Bishop Allen Drive", a song speaking about throwing furniture off the roof, features Margaret Miller adding sweet harmonies as a minimal backbeat gives the tune an Americana flavor. Perhaps the best song is the quirky mix of rap and pop on "Eve Of Destruction." Taking portions of the P.F. Sloan cover, the tune's melody comes close to a subdued-sounding Pixies. The momentum continues on "Things Are What You Make Of Them," with the vocals being the closest to Ray Davies' than at any other point on the record. If there's one average effort, it might be the Talking Heads sound of "Empire City," but a minute in, the groove falls beautifully into place. The homestretch of songs rarely falters from the formula they seem to have perfected — simple, catchy, and highly infectious pop. "Penitentiary Blues" has more handclaps, an acoustic guitar strumming, and a sing-along for its two minutes. Only on portions of the album does the group pick up the pace, particularly during "Quarter To Three," with its Velvet Underground chorus section. This is the way pop/rock was meant to be!

Biography

Formed: 2003 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Brooklyn by way of Boston indie rock quartet Bishop Allen formed in 2003 around core members Justin Rice and Christian Rudder. The group (the two longtime friends are joined by a rotating cast of musicians) takes its name from Bishop Allen Drive in Cambridge, MA, the street where Rice and Rudder used to reside. Bishop Allen released the largely self-recorded Charm School in 2003 and were quiet on the recordings front until 2006, when they released an EP each month. The records were sold on their...
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Charm School, Bishop Allen
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