Wednesday, December 06, 2023

High School - Freshman 15

I always fancied myself quite the punk rock geek back in the '90s and 2000s. If there was a great band out there, I prided myself on knowing about it. So I'm quite surprised that I had no knowledge whatsoever of San Francisco-based High School, who were around from 2005 to 2007. How did none of my MySpace friends fill me in? Thankfully, High School has been rescued from the dustbin of punk history. During the COVID lockdown, the band's songwriter Ethan Shapiro (more recently of Rough Kids and Form Rank) found himself with the itch to revisit songs he'd written a decade-and-a-half prior. He started recording the songs from memory with a little help from singer Courtney Kimball's old notebooks. Other songs were reimagined, and new songs were written. Some new bandmates were recruited. And after three years of work, the debut album from High School now exists! It's called Freshman 15, and it's available from Dirt Cult Records' Bandcamp for the ridiculously cheap price of free! We can talk all day about how the pandemic sucked, but it was also a marvelous moment for artists and musicians who suddenly had time on their hands to work on passion projects. Freshman 15 definitely falls into that category. 

The 2023 version of High School features original members Shapiro and Kimball joined by Kevin Preston (The Skulls, Prima Donna), Roger Biersborn (Don Juan y Los Blancos, Los Quinceneros), and Luis Herrera (Rough Kids, Cast Of Thousands). Musically, this album couldn't be any more up my alley — think poppy punk rock meets power pop meets straight-ahead rock 'n' roll. And the songs are legit good. With High School, we get the best of both worlds: the authentic youthful spirit that first inspired these tunes and the greater experience and maturity that went into perfecting them. Kudos to Ethan Shapiro for realizing that these songs needed to be revived and recorded for posterity. If you're looking for super-fun songs about school and love and love at school, High School has got you covered. How can you not love a band whose theme song is a cover of one of the MC5's greatest tunes? Has High School succeeded in re-capturing its original magic? That is for all its old fans to decide. But in my book, they've gifted the world a timeless rock 'n' roll record.

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