Illmatic Baby

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Art-School don't really reinvent themselves on Illmatic Baby, but the EP offers a subtle yet powerful update of their style. The band still sticks to the U2/pop-punk crossover that doesn't sound like either influence but still manages to combine the adrenaline rush of Green Day with a strong emotional message, nailing the toe-tapping brain center and uplifting the spirit at the same time. Prior to Illmatic Baby, this approach had become slightly formulaic and even watered-down, with hooks being replaced by guitar textures, but on this EP, the catchiness is back, and it's stronger than ever. It's not that Art-School have introduced some new gimmick -- it's rather that they shook themselves up and refreshed the songwriting on all fronts, from romantic midtempo ballads ("Kimi Wa Ima Hikari no Naka Ni") to tunes like the title track that blaze at a cruise speed of 120 mph. There's a slight influence of dance-rockers in the Scissor Sisters vein to be heard in the bouncy rhythms of the record, but it may be just a coincidental consequence of the fact that both bands brim with energetic and memorable tunes: every track on Illmatic Baby is a potential single with a face, a hook, and enough depth to warrant multiple listens; the tunes never lose sight of each other, and establish a solid optimistic and coyly romantic vibe throughout the album. Even the short duration isn't a problem, as often happens with EPs, because the frenzy of the record's positive charge leaves the listener pleasantly exhausted -- though likely still wanting more.

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