New single Mastermind Specialism catapults English Teacher fully into the ballad market. With its slow roots in other tracks like A55, there is a break from the usual descension into a wall of noise. A fluttery piano and a discordant cello instead lead the way for this heartfelt reflection on the trials and tribulations of decision paralysis. This track solidifies English Teacher’s position as a post-post punk band. For there is so much more to this diverse and talented selection of musicians than lazy assertions of post-punkery. Having been named the band ‘most likely to carry forward the 7-piece BCNR standard’ by the Black Country New Road Fan Facebook group, this is surely their Turbines moment.
Amongst a variety of literary and cultural references, Lead singer, Lily Fontaine, charts herself as a speaker for her generation particularly poignantly in this track. Through her lyrics she shows the early 20s mayhem and decision paralysis of a citizen of an ever-closer world that can paradoxically feel so far away. Having already touched on the decision-making nightmares of the supermarket in Mental Maths; this track goes further down the philosophical rabbit hole in detailing the difficulty in choosing what to do with your life. As she says, people don’t hear about ‘the wife who never made it down the aisle’. You never regret what you do, only what you didn’t do. But with an economic system that prioritises the illusion of increased choice over ownership and certainty, these anxieties are rife. This is felt particularly intensely in the unstable music industry where they find themselves. There is so much they could choose to do, but I’m glad they chose music.
As usual from this band, this track is so well put together, with each part complimenting each other's so well. Drummer Douglas Frost moves away from the kit and displays his adept piano skills. There’s that unmistakable unique bass tone from Nicholas Eden and a beautifully plucked guitar part from Lewis Whiting. Frost and Fontaine’s vocals come together so nicely in this song, with a softness that marks out the song from their other tracks and yet again, shows their range.
With the artwork reminiscent of the vast Yorkshire Moors, there is an eeriness to that cello and likeness of the track to Irish folk heroes, Lankum. This track is a perfect accompaniment to an autumnal walk. As I kick the leaves off my shoes, I am reminded there is a better future out there. Life holds a lot of choice, but there is beauty in what we cannot control and the unpredictability of what life may throw at us.
Words by Becca Healy