Western Education were formed during spring 2011 on the east coast in the city of Lowell, Massachusetts, birthplace and muse of Jack Kerouac, after vocalist Greg Alexandropoulos plastered the UMASS Lowell campus with flyers seeking some compatible musicians. His search discovered bassist Will Hunt and guitarist Georgio Broufas and the trio set about making some demos. But they weren’t happy with the way they were sounding with electronic beats, so the search was on for a drummer. Thus, Mark Ragusa entered the picture during early 2012.
It’s not easy to peg down Western Education’s sound. While all 11 songs on their debut album are great, they vary in style considerably. The album opens with “Peace,” a swirling pop rock tune that owes a debt to The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside,” though it has more of an electro feel than The Killers’ track. It’s almost what you’d expect a Garbage cover of “Mr. Brightside” to sound like. (Think: loops galore.) Except, obviously, for the fact that Western Education has a male vocalist. To that end, Greg’s voice immediately calls to mind that of Boys Like Girls’ charming Martin Johnson. Perhaps, then, it’s no coincidence that both bands were formed in the same area of Massachusetts? Another vocalist Greg would seem to be influenced by? None other than The Cure’s Robert Smith. To that end, “I Can’t Heal” nails The Cure’s melancholic vocal styling and downtrodden lyrics perfectly, the difference being that “I Can’t Heal” is considerably more up-tempo than your average song by The Cure.
Another noteworthy track is the piano/keyboard-driven “Geneva,” which plays like a noir fairy tale as it tells the story of a girl who sits alone in silence to the dismay of her elders, who monsters keep up at night. There’s clearly an Elton John influence here and the lyrics play like something Bernie Taupin would have written for a B-side back in the day.
Other highlights include the captivating, prog-rock-ish “Ashes and Sea,” which plays like a less dramatic cross between Rush and Muse, the catchy Rio-era Duran Duran-esque “All I Am,” and the dreamy Interpol-ish “Ideal Situation.”
Lowell, Massachusetts is a city that constantly strives to reinvent itself and it’s slowly been improving during recent years, though it never quite seems to get where it wants to be. One hopes Western Education get where they want to be, no reinvention necessary.