Since the release of Film School's 2001 album A Brilliant Career, post-punk-inspired indie rock bands have gone from being hip to common, and it would be easy to write off the band's second, self-titled album as riding the wake of the trend. However, Film School is a strong album that deserves more than being written off as just the work of post-punk wannabes. The band manages to find its own niche among its contemporaries: more evocative than the National, less bleak than Editors, and not nearly as melodramatic as Interpol, Film School's music is actually more varied than that of their peers, even though they're drawing from the same pool of influences. The band hails from San Francisco, but Film School's heart belongs to Manchester: though they claim inspirations ranging from the Who to drone metal to electronica, it's Joy Division and Echo & the Bunnymen who shape their music the most, particularly on "On & On"'s precise, angular basslines, glamorously dour vocals, and alternately shimmering and spiky guitars. The band makes sure its big, atmospheric sound doesn't dissolve into the ether completely by anchoring epics like "11:11" with brighter, catchier songs such as "Harmed," "Pitfalls," and "Breet," which recalls the Cure with its bouncy bassline and forlorn lyrics. Film School often feels like some lost album from the late '80s that captures the moment when post-punk was about to mist over into shoegaze; "He's a DeepDeep Lake" sounds more than a little like the more muscular side of My Bloody Valentine, and the album's gorgeous closer, "Like You Know," should be as comforting as a warm bath to fans of Pale Saints and Chapterhouse. As the album unfolds, the band begins to escape the shadows of its influences. "Garrison" is a pretty interlude of loops and washes of sound that bridges the band's interest in electronica and dream pop, while "Sick of the Shame," with its looser, lighter, free-flowing feel, could be the sound of the band's future. Film School isn't breathtakingly original, but it is well made, and should appeal to fans of the sounds Film School explores, but aren't too hung up on when they were made.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares