With the recent reunions of such canonical figures as My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and Ride, shoegaze is unquestionably back. Consequently, so is Film School. With their first album since 2010’s Fission, the San Francisco noisemakers have returned with Bright to Death, not only a loyal adherent to its genre’s tradition, but also exhibits some of the band’s sharpest work to date.Without diving back into their catalogue, we can only say that this new release is stuffed full of memorable and downright terrific songs with a multitude of textures. The range of styles include dream pop, synth pop, post punk, and elements of psych.
“When this lineup first came together in the early 2000s, I never thought we’d be doing some of our best work fifteen or so years later,” admits singer and guitarist Greg Bertens. “Our [self-titled] album came out in 2006, when bands like The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand were in full swing. The music landscape was totally different then—shoegaze was a bad word. That’s changed.”
With Franz Ferdinand and at least one Stroke back in full swing—albeit in entirely different corners of the sandbox—Film School have found their stride in a significantly less homogenized era for rock, threading the needle previously framed by “Lectric”’s dark trance and “Sunny Day”’s bright guitars. Bright to Death’s forty-minute run time straddles a middle ground of hazy noise pop driven by a darkwave undercurrent.
The album title is taken from artwork seen by singer/guitarist Greg Bertens at an exhibit by Chinese students on the theme of global warming. The phrase ‘bright to death’ popped into his head as the band recorded in Joshua Tree. Four members from the original lineup are on this record, as well as a guest appearance from Adam Wade (Shudder to Think, Jawbox) on several songs.