The Scholars – Arrival / Departure EP

Screaming synths, sliding riffs and glam polyphony. That’s the sound that hits you with The Scholars debut EP, bringing back the dulcet tones of the early Killers catalogue with a tinge of sexy Roxy Music hiding at the back.

The vocals slide, glide and confide with you, and as this dark glam rock tells of ‘Mind Games’, we seem to be lost within an emporium of reverb. Overall, one feels rather tense throughout this E.P, songs always seem to be building to a climax that never quite arrives, or perhaps is constantly departing. The lyrics are perhaps a little one dimensional and cliched, but they are delivered with the minimum of pretence. Cutting through the often dense mix are the big pop choruses as in the track ‘Escape Plan.’ This is definitely a large sounding record and it is very refreshing to hear something coming from Oxford that doesn’t rely upon funky and nifty counterpoint between two terribly high pitched guitars.

The opener ‘Mind Games’ slices between compressed synths and funky guitar riffs, it feels a bit like an 80s disco, and then from afar, warm tenor vocals circulate the room. This is another band delving into the dark and wonderful, we saw it with the success of White Lies and in a slightly different tangent from the xx. We seem to looking for the brooding in our music, no longer do we want hooky pop melodies but reverb drenched vocals amongst a barrage of noise. This is perhaps no bad thing, pop melodies have gone far from what I would call accessible.

The next track ‘Escape Plan’ really rocks out. A rolling bass line and repetitive snare cracks create a sense of inner tension suddenly let go by the dominant guitar solo. Crashing symbols, catchy guitar and bashing keywords that possess some of the old style pop we all used to dance to in our bedrooms. YES! But this record also has got something for those of you who sat alone straightening your hair and listening to gloomy indie.

The final track on the digital release is ‘New York Smile’ which again takes us back to early Killers material that really does make use of the full soundscape, filling every part of your eardrums and surrounding your brain. Throughout this packed song, hanging in the back are these wonderful deep piano chords holding it all together. There is something softer behind the ringing guitar riffs, revealing a more tender side to these modern art rockers.

Do the right thing and go out to the record stores or the live shows and buy this record for real, so you can actually feel it. If you do so, you will receive two more lush tracks. The wonderfully polyphonic remix of The Scholars debut single ‘Turbulence’ – by the infamous Parisian Cowboy – so go to that Truck Store and buy it for real. Oh, and you also get a wicked bonus track called ‘Birth’; well worth the trip up Cowley Road.