First things first, ‘The Drifting Classroom’ is the name of a Manga horror series of books by Kazuo Umezu and an oubliette is a dungeon with access via a trapdoor in the ceiling. The name came as a result of the striking cover artwork, created by some of band’s talented friends in Amsterdam to represent the lyrical themes of the album. The band hail from Liverpool and have impressed enough to be signed to Guy Garvey’s Skinny Dog Record label. Experienced lead singer Marc Sunderland has previously appeared with Peter and The Wolf and all the band members have history in the music industry. There’s no wetness behind the ears here.
The name and title misleadingly hint at something on the sinister side, maybe a massive rock grunge assault, but the lead single from the album, ‘Doo What’, misleads further as it is an unrepresentative 1950’s style doo wop tune. What we do have in the main is a very accessible sound with lots of appeal.
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Opening track ‘Red And Gold’ sets off with a military drum beat before an electric guitar kicks in, followed by Jools Holland/Squeeze keyboards and their quirky turn of phrase, “My lady don’t listen to me, she don’t listen, she’s drinking in the shower again …” ‘Grasses Charred’ has a sombre tone, a folky acoustic guitar running through it, and demonstrates some interesting lyrical content, referring to “the breaking up of man and lass” and “I’ll tiptoe when the reaper comes, his scythe rusty and blunt.” ‘Madness’ has an almost cartoonish feel to it, and wouldn’t be amiss as the backdrop to a Tom and Jerry sketch. ‘Come Into My World’ is one of the album highlights, harmonies oozing in a dreamy and smooth delivery, perked up with a violin interjection – you could imagine a certain very popular boy band having a huge hit with the song. ‘Hey You’ is another striking track, more reliant on the impact of the electric guitar and dramatic keyboards, “Oh my, down to the abyss, oh my, getting harder to resist.”
Overall, there is variation in the song styles on offer and the melodic indie feel gives this album potential for popular mainstream success. It’s a pleasant rather than earth-shattering piece, and that is by no means damning with faint praise. With so many decidedly unpleasant things in our modern world, this is a pretty decent place to be.
‘Oubliette’ is out now on Skinny Dog Records.
This The Drifting Classroom review was written by Ellie Scott, a GIGsoup contributor.