Album Review

English Teacher - This Could Be Texas

The opposite of a flash-in-the-pan buzz band; they’re a group really only just getting started.

English Teacher - This Could Be Texas

Where many of UK alternative’s most notable recent debuts have been albums that declared their intentions loudly, putting humour / bombast / rage (delete as applicable) front and centre in a way that clarified their niche from the off, English Teacher’s much-anticipated opening statement opts for a trickier path. ‘This Could Be Texas’ is an album that unfurls itself with each listen; it is neither easily categorised nor, you suspect, written with quickly-digestible earworms in mind. Instead, the Leeds quartet choose to walk down wildly varying paths whose connecting thread is primarily in their poetry. Filled with tenderness and a rare, soft sentimentality, it allows the band to group the rattling post-punk of ‘The World’s Biggest Paving Slab’, the autotuned experimentalism of ‘Best Tears of Your Life’ and the fragile, piano-led sweetness of heartbreaking highlight ‘You Blister My Paint’ under one still-cohesive umbrella.

Their not-so-secret weapon lies in vocalist Lily Fontaine: a frontwoman who, since the band’s reasonably-recent beginnings, has audibly blossomed in a way reminiscent of Ellie Rowsell’s star-making trajectory with Wolf Alice. Their 2021 breakthrough track ‘R&B’ - a withering takedown of genre stereotyping - is given a reworking here; its vocals sharper and more cutting, and its production beefed-up and direct, it nods to Lily’s journey from those first moves to now. But it’s in moments such as ‘Mastermind Specialism’, with its rich vocals placed at the centre amid strange, sad, nostalgic couplets (“I am the lamb you had for your tea / And I am the tiger who came”), or epic closer ‘Albert Road’, where her voice builds to a staggering crescendo, that you hear the full scope of what she can do.

‘This Could Be Texas’ is riddled with complexities that, even 18 months ago, English Teacher likely wouldn’t have had the confidence to execute. Lewis Whiting’s guitars, which frequently tread Graham Coxon-like realms of noise-wrangling brilliance on the live stage, are cleaner here, lending a mathy sensibility to ‘Nearly Daffodils’, and conspiring with Nicholas Eden’s bass to weave around the repetitive mantras of ‘I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying’. The album’s title track ends, after a pause, with spring-like sounds and violins, before ‘Not Everyone Gets To Go To Space’ then arrives like an old video game rebooting after years in the attic. Throughout, Lily’s lyrics dance between familiar, humorous domesticity, and something more episodic and strange. “Mum’s bones are breaking / Cut-outs in the photographs / Splitting our prescriptions / Broken biscuits.”

The picture it paints as a whole is a hugely rich one - not just of the album itself, but of English Teacher as the opposite of a flash-in-the-pan buzz band; as a group really only just getting started. The sentiment behind ‘This Could Be Texas’ is that it could also be anywhere, but already the Leeds quartet are securing themselves as far more singular than that.

Tags: English Teacher, Reviews, Album Reviews

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