The Academy Is..., We The Kings, The Maine

Edmund Townend 13/09/2008

Transferring from the long summer haul of Warped Tour in the US to the toilet club tour of the UK may be a big leap backwards, but for The Academy Is… notoriety is yet to be felt here as much as it has been back home. They hit the UK first in Cardiff with a gathering of friends from the 14 Year Institution tour with them, the first being Arizona band The Maine.

Grimly monotonous, with every song slurring into the next with their similarity, this is sickeningly boring American emo music. Sounding so familiar as they drive through their set, pausing to unleash a gross, sadistic cover of an Akon song. Predictable and simpering, with none of the energy that should accompany music this bland to hide its unexciting sound. Too many screaming fans (of both genders) than imaginable five years ago for a band this small dissipate what would normally be a blunt response from a normal Cardiff audience.

However these types of bands came about is lost in clone after clone, but it may be in some way connected to the headliner's popularity. The Academy Is… have predecessors in Fall Out Boy and their energetic snide stylings, and then there is the devilishly witty and charming sound of Panic! At The Disco. Maybe the unheard link between these bands has been lost in American-only MySpace culture. Whoever made monotonous the near bearable genre of mainstream modern emo to this level however deserves to be strung up.

Thankfully, the next band We The Kings deliver. With great energy and power over the crowd, they charge on and wow an already bewitched audience. Incredibly sincere, unlike the bored attitude of the first band, they are ecstatic at how the crowd recognises them and thoroughly enjoy themselves. They also play a well-rehearsed and slightly better researched cover of Gorillaz's Feel Good Inc, to the crowd's further delight (which involves their screams). The band smile and dance their way through pop-filled songs that sadly all sound the same. Variety wouldn't go amiss in this genre, despite the compulsory floor full of pedals. However, for a pop-fuelled rock band, they certainly hit the mark.

The lights dim for the headliners and screams yet again tear at the eardrums. The rest of The Academy Is… walk on stage whilst their frontman William Beckett bounds on. Whilst Beckett throws his stand about and marches up and down the stage in the fashion of so many lead singers before, the band pull out all the stops and create the backdrop for lyrics that are a teenager's dream come true. Bouncing from the frustrated Neighbors (sic, American spelling) to the cool and calm Slow Down, there is at least some variety with the dynamics, and what remains is always the hook of the chorus. Despite the vague, senseless lyrics, the majority of the crowd are singing every word. Crooning emo song Summer Hair = Forever Young jumps into the slightly surreal The Phrase That Pays, which is about teetering on the edge of death.

With some sort of message trying to come across in these bizarre and uncoordinated lyrics, there seems to be a sense of restriction in the band. Whilst frontman Beckett smiles and winks at the crowd, the rest of the obviously skilled and musically talented band put one hundred per cent of what they can into the flat songs. The boy band imagery of this music might be restricting these musicians from creating something genuinely striking, seemingly lost in this decade, compared to the punk brewing in the Warped Tour before.

Academy… try to add a sense of wrongdoing and rebellion in We've Got A Big Mess On Our Hands but instead just fill endless boring guitar segments with 'Woah-ohs' but give up with Classifieds (My life reads like the classifieds - ugh). At least with About A Girl they resign themselves to the cliché and create a perfect pop song sounding like it's straight from the recording studio of McFly or Busted. Finally, in a nod to the surprisingly sold-out gig's audience of dedicated fans, they play Checkmarks which finally sounds like an aggressive escape despite crushed a little by the quintessential emo voice of Beckett.

Let's hope the emo phase passes so again we can hear some skilled punk rock from the US.

Photo by Stellar Spontaneous Photography