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Scholars – Always Lead, Never Follow (Banquet Records)

Chances are if you were a fan of British rock music ten years ago, you would have lapped up the likes of Hundred Reasons, Reuben or Million Dead. Certainly, numerous bands that have come through in the past year or so have cited them as an influence, but few seem to have studied them quite so closely as Hemel Hempstead’s Scholars. You might even say the five piece have got them in their DNA. For the past five years, they have learnt their craft by relentless touring and snatching the occasional support slot, but at last they have a full-length album to their name. The results add up to one of the most fun rock debuts the music scene has spawned in recent times.

The opening track, ‘Bad For Business’ is effectively how a record should be kicked off. Like ‘I’ll Find You’ or ‘Pornography For Cowards’ it makes sure you’re firmly hooked from that point onwards. And the likes of ‘Rage Concern’ and ‘Damage’ deliver the levels of intensity that have been severely lacking from the majority of bands of their ilk in the past couple of years. Scholars love to experiment too, as is evident from ‘Baraka’ and ‘Ties’, with the intertwining rave-esque keyboards thrown into the mix. On a related note, the latest single ‘Black And Blue’ recalls the dance punk of The Automatic (a name that doesn’t seem to get thrown about in many reviews these days). For the rest of the album, with the likes of ‘Hydrochaesin’ and ‘More Medicine’ it’s easy to get that sense of nostalgia, particularly if you span the early to mid 20’s. But tracks such as ‘Stellar’ and ‘Scaredy Cat’ with their soaring choruses are the more ‘accessible’ side of the album and reach out to a wider fan base. For those that have followed them since the beginning, they’ll be delighted to know that live favourite ‘Fractures’ has forced its way onto the track listing, still sounding fresh and poignant. Perhaps it would have made a better closing track than the rather dreary ‘Waiting’, which would have fared better in a B-Sides collection.

It’s difficult to know how long a band like Scholars will be out there but on the plus side, ‘Always Lead, Never Follow’ is simply the sound of five guys laying bare their influences and creating fun at the same time. Let’s just hope they find their lucky break to coincide with this release.

[Rating:4]

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.