While the UK has spent decades looking over the other side of the Atlantic for inspiration, it’s less frequent for our American cousins to reverse the trend. Nevertheless, when they do, the results are often breathtaking. Smashing Pumpkins – particularly on excellent debut ‘Gish’ – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and Diiv are three acts that immediately spring to mind for their Anglophilic tendencies. So, it probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that a band whose previous moniker was Girl In A Coma have a sonic palette that’s firmly indebted to British guitar music from the eighties and nineties.
The National Honor Society officially began in Seattle three years ago, although its four members – Coulter Leslie (vocals and rhythm guitar), Jerry Peerson (lead guitar and vocals), Andrew Gaskin (bass) and Will Hallauer (drums) – have been playing together on and off in various bands for over a decade. Wearing their influences with pride on the sleeves of jackets emblazoned with badges displaying the cream of UK guitar bands from the golden age of indie through shoegaze to Britpop. The National Honor Society have crafted an impressive debut with To All The Glory We Never Had.
Musically, the reference points range from The Smiths to Ride, sometimes during the same song. Lead single ‘First Among The Last’ for instance, which announced the album’s imminent arrival two months ago. Taking its cue from the latter’s ‘Twisterella’ before throwing in elements of ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ towards the outro. Leslie and Peerson’s sumptuous harmonies work delectably in tandem with a melody that deserves to soundtrack the summer. It captures a band clearly content with their lot, and so they should be.
Beforehand, breezy opener ‘Turns Me On’ and the rip roaring ‘Everybody Lives And Breathes’ provide further examples of their ability to flit between styles with consummate ease. The former regales the gritty pop of vastly underrated Merseyside outfit, Pale Fountains,while the latter fuses the swagger of early Oasis, with an insatiable guitar riff and wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Creation Records thirty years ago.
Elsewhere, ‘The Occupation’ finds the NHS – a name they’ve been known to play under from time to time – in reflective mood, Leslie’s vocal pronunciations not entirely dissimilar to a young Ian Brown. While both ‘When We Ruled The School’ and album standout ‘Incredible’ highlight the foursome’s uncanny knack for penning distinctive, catchy and in the case of the latter, anthemic radio friendly pop ditties. If ‘When We Ruled The School’ owes its lineage to the sounds of Liverpool from The Beatles to The Las and any number of outfits in between. The delightful tones of ‘Incredible’ has its roots set in David Bowie’s glam phase, which Brett Anderson and Suede brought to life two decades later.
‘Crystallize’ again doffs its cap towards dreamier ethereal waters while ‘Be Gone’ finds them in buoyant oceans once more. It’s the confidence that shines through every pore, even at its most poignant and indignant, that makes To All The Glory We Never Had such an emotionally inspiring record.
Using the past to create a bright future, The National Honor Society have delivered one of 2020’s finest debuts. The world is their oyster, even if their spiritual home might be somewhere between Manchester and London.
To All The Glory We Never Had is out now via Chien Lunatique Records.
Photo: Brady Harvey