It wasn’t a shock to some fans that The Academy Is… called it quits on October 8th, 2011, around five months after announcing that two of their members had parted ways with the band. Most had hoped that they’d trudge on, but after months of “soon” and open ended questions, the future of TAI seemed fuzzy. And with a blog post and the promise that “The Academy Is… belongs to you,” the band seemed to have perpetually put down their microphone and drum sticks. There was anger, yes, and there were tears, I’m sure. But most of all, there was a lingering question of “…well, what now?”
Sisky Biz (Bass whiz) has joined forces with Say Anything and is currently touring the United States with them on their Say Anarchy tour. Michael Guy Chislett went on tour with Brooke Fraiser. The Butcher focused on his side project, The Animal Upstairs as well as touring South America and Australia with Cobra Starship. And Mike Carden seems to have blended in with the LA scene, most fans not even knowing what he’s up to. And William … well, what about William?
It’s not as if we expected to have lead singer and lyricist William Beckett just die out with his band, did we? Someone with his stage charisma and talent could never just stop making music. And he made it quite clear to his fans that this wasn’t the end for him. Consistent YouTube videos from his “Under the Cover” series were followed by an announcement that he would be releasing an EP, entitled Walk the Talk on April 17th, with a tour of the same name to come after.
Well, my friends, today is April 16th, and on the eve of his release, critics and fans can come to an agreement that months of recording, reassuring, “soon”s, wishing, blogging, hoping, hinting, and tweeting has come down to an EP of unprecedented potency.
I’d have to say that my favorite thing about Walk the Talk is that although there is some of the something to prove vibe from Almost Here and the raw energy of Santi mixed with the freshness of Fast Times, this new EP is truly a stand-alone masterpiece, which doesn’t directly relate to any previous work that Beckett has put out. I don’t listen to any song and get reminded by any other precious track that I’ve heard him write or sing. Walk the Talk is walking its own talk and it’s a bundle of power, tenderness, and pure emotion, unfiltered by anything that William Beckett did not want.
Walk the Talk opens up with the debut single “Compromising Me,” a poppy, little-bit-country, little-bit-rock’n’roll song, containing a message for anyone that has been doubting him in the past (“I know you’re going to say that I’m not cool enough/Tell all your friends I screwed it up/I could give two shits/Just let me breathe/I don’t, I don’t care what you’re saying about me/No I don’t care…”) This song clearly details how he felt while in the constraints of his band (“Walking up the mountain/A piano on my back/Gotta cut it loose/Throw away the noose/And forget about the past”) and sets the tone for the rest of the EP, that this is his music, his way, and he’s through compromising himself. As a listener, you know that whatever you’re going to be listening for the next fifteen minutes is pure, unadulterated Beckett and that you’re going to like it.
Consistent with the powerful tone of the EP, the next song “Girl You Shoulda Been a Drummer” comes in with a drum/tambourine combination reminiscent of The Monkees/Beach Boys. He croons about a dangerous, but thrilling love (“’Cause a scratch is what you’re gonna get/When you open the door and let a lion inside”). Fitted with an unrelenting drum beat and laced with guitar solos, this song is playful and showcases William’s voice in a powerful manner. It draws you in with a face-splitting grin when he shouts “No one does it like you do!” This song is as sassy and rambunctious as the girl it’s describing, with a chorus as catchy as puppy love infatuation. The beat has your toe tapping and your hips swaying and the array of vocals, from the lead, to the group, to the speak-singing give this song a degree of individuality that is so absent in today’s music scene. This song is going to be this summer’s go-to song for when you’re driving around with your friends with the top down and need a song to scream along to, terribly off-key.
Now, I must admit, I may be a bit gushy with this next track, but that is because “Oh Love” has been attached to my heartstrings since I first heard it premiered on one of Beckett’s StageIt performances. Acoustically, it was beautiful, a perfect romantic admission. But add a band behind it and the value of the song goes through the roof and exceeds every expectation I had for it. There are so many layers upon layers in this song that you have to listen to it two, three, four times so that you can fully appreciate every nuance that it has to offer. Beckett clearly devotes himself to the subject of the song, threatening to walk through deserts and sleep on broken glass whilst floating in the ocean in order to prove his devoutness. The hand-claps and driving guitar line add a new dimension towards the end and immediately make me picture myself being at a concert and clapping in tandem with the rest of the crowd. The fact that I could feel such unity just from a song is clearly a statement in itself. This song will be a fan-favorite for years to come, just because of the sheer fact that it’s so relatable. We’ve all had that one person that we would forge through rivers for, and hearing Beckett sing about such sentiments just makes the listener go, “Yes! Exactly!”
And finally, no album is complete without a heart-breaking ballad. Walk the Talk’s comes in the form of “You Never Give Up,” which was one of the firsts to arise to fans’ ears once Beckett announced his solo career. A hauntingly beautiful track, this song speaks out to fans and loved ones in Beckett’s life who he says have always supported him through his music career. Something about the resounding vocals set only to a consistent drum beat, echoing your own heartbeat, makes the listener close their eyes and breathe the moment in. It incredibly showcases William Beckett’s amazing vocal range, with high notes sprinkled throughout the song. His talents are put on display for a clearly adoring audience. It takes a very serious turn, but that just demonstrates the versatility of Beckett and his talents. The song is so intimate that you feel as though you’re possibly intruding on a moment in Beckett’s life, but isn’t that the point? This EP as a whole is a slice of Beckett’s soul, put on display for his fans. This track is a beautifully winding down piece to round out a wholly terrific EP.
All in all, when people, including Beckett, say that the split on October 8th was the best thing that could have possibly happen, it’s very difficult for a fan to comprehend that. They try to see how the end of a band that has saved their life and has been quite literally their only friend through tough times could ever be perceived as a good thing. But in my humble opinion, I think it all comes together once you listen to this EP. You can clearly see how William Beckett has progressed and grown through the stages of his life. Walk the Talk is a musical piece of maturity, in essence. This is the music that Beckett has chosen to put out in the world because it’s the music that he feels best suits him, and as a music fanatic, you have to come to respect that. There will always be people who sit at home saying “The Academy will always be,” but when you get down to it, this EP is a brilliant way to show tentative fans that while The Academy belongs to us, we also have to be accepting of the changing tides. Walk the Talk is an emotional, powerful, hauntingly beautiful piece, and all that plus the confidence that William Beckett holds in his voice and his music leaves the listener craving for his next musical expedition.
And order the EP on itunes or on here.