School of Etiquette
I confess that I have a pretty strong weakness for the new crop femme-fronted noir wave burgeoning in the indie community these days. Bands like Metric, The Organ, Miss TK and the Revenge and now Boyskout appeal to me in the same way Elastica and Echobelly did during the mid-’90s Britpop movement. There’s little to no reinvention going on here, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of songwriting quality.
The first half of School of Etiquette is a whirlwind trip down every path that makes this music so endearing: subtle, Smiths-ian fingerpicking, fierce bass rumble, carnival-sized organs and detached and bratty vocals. “Jesse James” swaggers through the opening gate on classic post-punk tropes and an interesting homoerotic twist on Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl.” “Eye Make Up” delves deeper than most of the band’s sisters-in-arms, channeling Black Heart Procession crawling from a horror movie sewer. It’s shot through with cavernous piano chords with a muted banshee wail of guitar underneath. “Imaginary” is a perfect example of the band’s interplay; the instruments coalesce into a sturdy wall of sound despite little-to-no doubling up on tracks. It’s the sound The Donnas wish they could capture. The back portion of the album suffers from an underwritten track (“Sunday Morning”) and a plodding dirge that lacks character and a hook (“Ecstasy”). But “Circus Song” smirks like a Tom Waits sideshow, and “Girl on Girl Action” brings the pace full circle with some taut angularity and octave shifting. At their best, Boyskout pulls off a sound that’s equal parts ominous and seductive; and when they do it right, it’s easy to overlook a couple missteps from them.