With seven songs that just barely clock in at over 14 minutes, “Weakly” has a very apparent Joyce Manor appeal to it, where its strikingly short runtime is actually one of its strongest aspects. Never once does a Car School track get old or boring, and by the time each one concludes, all you’ll want is to replay it again and again. “Under the Cliff”, which only takes up 57 seconds of your time, illustrates this perfectly as it moves from an intro to a verse to a heavy chorus and finishes just as you realize how much you love the melodies within. The lyrics are especially poignant here, as they embody a dreamy sense of confusion and disorientation, like these words are being spoken to someone nearly passed out on the front lawn of the house.
While this interpretation is merely conjecture, there is certainly plenty of alcohol imagery present on “Weakly” to bolster my case. From the lonesome late-night drinking in “Twelve Forty-Five” to the hazy back-and-forth in “Manse Hill,” Higgins’ lyrics are deeply personal and surprisingly dark depictions of these oft-romanticized adolescent situations. Modern Baseball’s “Tears Over Beers” comes to mind, in part due to the similarity between the vocalist’s and Higgins’ delivery but also because of the ingenious combination of lighthearted, upbeat music with nerdy emotional sadness.
“Old as New” takes this concept and runs with it, beginning with a slow Midwestern emo-inspired intro before pelting listeners with distortion and rousing chords. There’s something very melancholic about the story in this song—remembering walking along a bridge with someone you loved far more than they ever did you, and the pop punk fits with it surprisingly well. “Gopher It” follows a similar trajectory, pairing an approachable, major-key sound with words like “There’s no one around / There’s no one”.
I never thought it could be done, but 8-bit pop punk can be both catchy and moving. Car School has created something very unique on “Weakly”, and the short runtime just leaves audiences desperate for more. “The Short End” is, perhaps, the best representation of what Higgins has to offer to the world with his solo project. He laments getting the “short end of the stick” at the song’s introduction as bouncy pop punk chords contrast starkly with the mood. Then, with a short spoken-word “goodbye”, the song launches into a genre-shattering section of passionate, fast pop punk mixed with 8-bit synth that soars with passion, not frivolity. The lone, folk-inspired guitar at the conclusion reminds us that there is a living, feeling person behind the art, who’s working his way through life with an undeserved weakness—something we fans have the ability to change. Take 14 minutes out of your life and sit with Car School. Before you know it, you will have spent an hour with it, strongly on your fifth listen.
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By: Max Puhala