January 07, 2002

My Education "5 Popes"

Sometimes things that seem to be knock-offs tend to be better than the things they immulate. When I was a teenager, I had a friend who taught me that better doesn't necessarily have to mean more expensive. For example, the companies expensive brands of cigarettes that I would smoke would also make cheaper cigarettes, often using the same tobacco. Potato chips, especially BBQ-flavored, would often be more filling and much tastier than the premium-quality chips. Same thing with colas. Why pay a buck for a name-brand drink, when, for the same price, you can often buy two or three, if not more, of a store-brand that tastes virtually the same?

Occasionally, though, this idea can apply to bands. My Education is an eight-piece Austin band who, if anything, bear a terrible resemblence to a band called Godspeed! You Black Emperor, as well as to their local comrades Explosions in the Sky. My Education, whose members have been in other notable bands, including Godspeed labelmates Stars of the Lid, are no mere rehash of pre-established styles, nor do they sound like mere knock-offs. Taken by themselves, the songs on 5 Popes could easily fool the unsuspecting hipster.

5 Popes is My Education's self-released debut, and, to be honest, a finer debut couldn't possibly be found. Shimmery guitars, dosed with a heaping helping of atmosphere and a hint of that wonderful Texas psychedelia is the general course of action for My Education. Starting with the increasingly dramatic waltz beat of "Concentration Waltz," the song builds up and up and up into heaven and is returned safely to the ground. Moving into "Lesson 3," the gentle guitars blossom into a loud, mind-expanding symphony. "Nightrider Meets the Waterfall" is a more "straightforward" "rock" "song," that quietly fades to silence. And so the style continues with "Deep Cut," until the final number "Crime Story" which is clearly as grand and epic as you would expect; after all, with it being the final song, you would expect a Very Big Finish, and My Education do not disappoint.

If Godspeed You Black Emperor! are tapped in to the desolate and dark nature of northern Canada, and Explosions in the Sky channel their arid West Texas background, then My Education are surely the sound of Central Texas. Their music captures the big skies of the Texas flatlands, while also blending in the dark, empty spaces of the woodlands of East Texas. 5 Popes is the sound of two barren regions coming together--a blend of sky and forest, emptiness from above, and isolation and loss from below. My Education are surely a band to pay attention to; no mere imitators of style are they--for the sound that they have found is, indeed, all their own.

--Joseph Kyle

No comments: