In the explosion of Smiths- and Joy Division-influenced bands to emerge at the beginning of the 21st century was, besides the Editors and the Interpols of the world, a four-piece group from Glasgow, the Cinematics. Following the same repeating-riff heavy path as their peers, the band, with their Morrissey-voiced lead singer Scott Rinning, write clean, well-structured songs that build up and then break down around the eighth-note basslines and driving electric guitars. The formula is fairly consistent throughout the entirety of their debut full-length, A Strange Education, but when it comes together well, like in the dancey "Break" or "Maybe Someday," it's as good as anything else out there. Unfortunately, this can't be said about the entire album. While it starts out well enough, the first four tracks dark and catchy and fun, the band soon slips into more standard rock arrangements, with churning, reverby chords instead of syncopated, edgy riffs and rhythms. Their cover of Beck's "Sunday Sun," while not bad, does nothing to really make it their own, and "Alright" can never quite figure itself out, how it wants to fit the instrumentation in with the vocals, and ends up being more disconcerting than anything else. That, the issue of resolution, is actually one that seems to constantly plague the Cinematics, even in their more successful pieces. They're clearly, as a band, concerned with phrasing and musicality, but sometimes their songs seem to consist of separate-but-linked parts instead of being fully developed, whole pieces. "Human," for example, has a fantastic, pulsating hook that keeps wanting to grow into something else but always backs down before it's ever completed, posing questions but never quite answering them, urging the audience forward without giving them enough to actually move anywhere. It's frustrating, more than anything else, because the Cinematics' potential is palpable; there are still some great cuts here, and a lot of energy, but the missteps and the hesitancy and the faltering are enough to make A Strange Education an unfulfilling affair.
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown