San Francisco noise/dream-pop outfit Film School must have felt confronted with the “go big or go home” locution prior to its fourth full-length, as it opts for the former on Fission – effectively hurling intimacy by the wayside and stretching out the space occupied by its brumous tracks throughout.
Opener “Heart Full Of Pentagons” ushers this fresh dynamic in with shimmery guitars and angelic harmonies, courtesy of bassist Lorelei Plotczyk who has been offered greater prominence than ever before within the Film School ranks. This grandeur could appear gaudy at first blush, but it’s supplied with ample vigor and one foot firmly rooted in the soil due to main man Greg Bertens’ (relatively) grounded vocals, generating arena-sized melancholy at street level, casting a hazy, radiant blur upon bustling cityscapes.
Balancing character with cleanliness is no given and Fission dabbles in the cold and clinical with unfortunate frequency. “When I’m Yours,” “Waited,” “Meet Around 10,” and “Find You Out” fit into a uniformly open, easygoing drift, which never culminates into anything of note. On the other hand, the slower, incandescent build of “Time To Listen” delights in its nonchalance and sultry sense of danger, while the rambunctious energy of “Distant Life” and refreshingly bare “Bones” are also standouts. However, the true pinnacle here is “Direct.” Armed with a sturdy percussive backbone, the buzzing composition accented by pointed synths and zestful two-part harmonies chases glimmers of light through myriad waves of fog, distilling life’s enormity into a series of small pleasures to behold.
The accuracy of Fission as a title is then later restated, as the promising bits on hand don’t manage to crowd out stock sounds for too long. “Sunny Day” races by in rather textbook dream pop fashion, whereas the lustre of “Nothing’s Mine” is completely innocuous and, in both cases, the instrumentation simply strays from the line of fire, tiptoeing through the motions so as to not disrupt the harmless stroll on center stage.
In spite of evident prime-time aspirations, Film School has brushed its material with little more than a voice muted by its now larger body. By going big, they’ve just gone hollow.
Score: 5.4 / 10
Find out more about Film School here: http://www.myspace.com/filmschool