The older you get, the more ground down by life’s disappointments and repetition you become, the more you need pop music, and especially pop music like this. A sweet three minute dose is still sunlight through drawn curtains, still a step away from sadness, a bubble that can’t be burst. The School are from Cardiff, and bandleader Liz Hunt has been pretty adept the last few years at writing bruised and classy takes on ’60s girl group shimmer. Songs like ‘All I Wanna Do’ and ‘Let It Slip’ take all the joy and worry of being in love, strip them into universal language then blast them back through chunky keyboard piano and fake strings, pocket symphonies on minimal budgets. Always underrated in their hometown, The School shouldn’t just appeal to those who take a knitted swimsuit to ATP; go tell the strangers at the bus stop this band are seriously swoonworthy.
Recorded in north Wales with albino sex guru David Wrench, these four tracks show a new shine to their polka dot dresses, and may be their best work yet. ‘Never Thought I’d See The Day’ rides in on a perfectly queasy organ bounce and threads it between perky guitar peals and just right backing ‘oohs’. It has a sort of cutesy roar that powers it with great poise to the end, all kinds of light hearted, addictive sparks flying off. No idea how much effort it takes to make this effervescence looks so effortless. A switched gender Jonathan Richman cover becomes ‘When He Kisses Me’, another lop-sided grin of Vitamin D. The keyboard piano is super-chunky, madly tuneful, the beat lollops like dopey lovers, and all is well within its plucked strings, shouts and call-outs. They give a weird kind of dignity to Richman’s childman capering while dosing it with fun – a pretty neat trick. The keyboard turns clipped and stoic for ‘Where Does Your Heart Belong?’, a strength-in-heartbreak number with recorder shadowing the vocal lines and a nice Beach Boys desolation feel. The chorus gently unfurls into some Bacharach brass, and it’s all quite swish. ‘I Wouldn’t Know What To Do’, originally by The Honeydrips (me neither), relaxes things further. Not much more than vocals over acoustic guitar, woodblock and xylophone, it hovers briefly in the air like some Velocette ghost. Which is another way of saying: The School have the tunes to justify being part of a brilliant girl group-inspired lineage, and the skills to escape any twee indie ghetto you might want to put them in. This single’s for anyone who ever had a heart, and it’s to be cherished.