The Unbearable Lightness of Film School

LA's Film School takes Alex down the time tunnel and back again for a refreshing dip in the nostalgic waters of shoegazing.

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by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: November, 2007
I can totally picture my high school semi-gothic girlfriend hula-hooping on a picnic table in the park

Film School
Hideout
(Beggars Banquet)

Nostalgia can be a corrosive tide when it laps your shoreline, dumping dead fish and gas cans all over the pristine edge of physical temporal consciousness that the beach fundamentally is. I harbor great nostalgia for the shoegaze early nineties, when so many things were crushed together in a swirling mass, spinning like a tornado from Johnny Marr's tremolo pedal, but I know well that if I wade too far into it, I will have failed to heed the warning my favorite shoegaze group The Chameleons issued in the song "Nostalgia" - it is drains my will and will, tomorrow, lead me away. And, the loop of Nietzche's Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence gets tighter like the same tie worn to too many christenings and funerals, but curiously, the coat fits better with passing time. I keep thinking about the bullshit /glorious ennui of my favorite shoegaze-ear movie and Philip Kaufman's finest hour, the adapatation of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, how the collapse of everything is eminent and we still cannot connect with each other and we still do it and life is juicy and sad and melodramatic. We are human and we need to be loved! is the slogan we would cut into out pale little arms.  It was a great time to be miserably alive.

Los Angelino muchrakers Film School dredge this up in me every time. The glorious miasma they build up on their second glorious album Hideout, with that slap echo drums and thumpy bass for a fogcutter, piloted by a mopey crooner - shoegazing at its best. When people get caught up in trying to explain that a band as dull as Interpol sounds like a band as good as Joy Division was, they should be refocusing on their efforts, running their tightrope between Film School and long forgotten heroes like The Mighty Lemon Drops. Both groups have immediate teenage drama appeal, Film School's "Two Kinds" evokes the painfully obvious and effective poigancy sniffling through no-one-understands-me diatribes as a cathedral clock chimes in the foggy distance rock that got me through my formative years, and truth be told, gets me through these ones now.

Like disco, it's a cliché to say The Cure sucked, but I offer their lasting power as evidence to the contrary, Film School can direct a Fairlight string section with the same delicate hand, especially on "Two kinds" and the ironically autumnal "Florida", as well as conjure up that stomp of when you got your first Doc Martens on "Go Down Together" and "Lectric," all without drowning the choppy, polluted nostalgia harbor they insist on navigating. I really set out to review this record without resorting to the S-word, or to mention baggy sweaters and asymmetric haircuts, but the music unabashedly begs it, and really, I should face up to being the son and heir of the supposed "nothing in particular" that I was there to create. Besides, I forget that mopey old shoegaze was actually pretty fun music - I can totally picture my high school semi-gothic girlfriend hula-hooping on a picnic table in the park to "Sick Hipster Nursed by Suicide Girl."

The swoon! That was the thing about this music and Film School knows the Way of the Malestrom like a drowning victim. "Must Try Harder"and "Compare" fills the air like locusts, like the hum of those sodium lights The The romanticized so well. It is the sound of overwhelming gravity, the roar of being pulled every way at once. My whole personal concept of adolescence is wrapped up in what I now know to be some simple delay pedal settings, but I'm OK with that. I'm relieved that it is so simple and so reliable a trick, so that a band like Film School can come along every five of six years and tear me apart with it all over again, leaving me to rebuild anew. The tide is never going to stop, the beach will perpetually recede like our hairlines, so maybe its time to quit standing on the beach with that gun in my hand, and dive right in.

Alex V. Cook
Music Editor

Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com

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