Lessons learned

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Usually I'm not too keen on bands that make in-store appearances at Hot Topic, but The Academy Is... is better than your average mall-punks.

The Chicago quintet will stop by the Hot Topic at Easton Sunday afternoon to sign copies of Fast Times at Barrington High before playing Newport Music Hall that night with We the Kings, Carolina Liar and Hey Monday. While I won't be among those flocking to Easton or lining up on the High Street pavement Sunday, I appreciate what The Academy Is... brings to the table.

Fast Times wastes no time, bursting out of the gate with the invigorating "About a Girl." It's not a Nirvana cover, but rather one of a dozen sleek, '80s-inspired pop-rock tunes that fill out the tracklist - soundtrack-ready singalongs with high-powered harmonies that soar over neon synths and silicon guitars.

This is the music that passes for punk these days, but to call it punk is to drain all meaning from that word. It's much closer to A-Ha than Agnostic Front.

Misnomers aside, there's plenty to enjoy about this power-charged pop. Mixed in with the New Wave references are nods to '90s emo, brighter days before the genre spread into so many awful permutations. "The Test" recalls Blue Album-era Weezer; "After the Last Midtown Show" revives fond memories of the Get Up Kids' lovelorn balladry.

The Academy Is... are clearly good students of their closest ancestors, and they could school most of their contemporaries on how this stuff is done.