Beauty School – ‘Happiness’

By Sean Reid

Beauty School’s roots are firmly in the constantly thriving music scene of Leeds. Their debut album, ‘Happiness’, is the culmination of years of playing in various bands together, long-term friendships and overcoming a difficult two years. It sees the quintet confidently carry their collective influences on their shoulders, blending a mix of emo, indie and alt-rock to produce a heartfelt collection of songs.

At the centre is the bold, soulful voice of Joe Cabrera, whose words provide an emotive charge throughout these 13 tracks. From long-distance relationships to grandparents dealing with dementia, to carefree youthful days and beyond, Cabrera and company have an album scattered with relatable lyrics, delivered with personality.

From the start, ‘Take It Slow’ allows the five-piece to flex their punchy, melodic muscle, while Cabrera sets the foundation for Beauty School’s lyrical tone. “This year’s been hellish, its time to grow,” he proclaims in the verse, before showing determination to “take it slow” against a driving musical backdrop.

Early on, tracks such as ‘Silver’, ‘Oak’, and ‘Pawn Shop Jewels’ clearly show Beauty School’s melodic flair. ‘Oak’ sees the quintet charge ahead with stirring guitar work, whereas ‘Pawn Shop Jewels’ is carried by a blend of math-like riffery courtesy of the guitar trio of Daniel Shaw, Grant Beeden Clayton and Jordan Hill, harmonious vocals, and sturdy drums from Charlie Thomas. Collectively, the three tracks demonstrate the emotional ache that threads this album together.

Their midwest emo tendencies reappear in the pairing of ‘Only Nature’ and ‘Ekimae’, allowing Beauty School to reign the tempo in. Nevertheless, their emotive execution remains firmly intact. On the latter, Cabrera’s stirring vocals are complemented by playful guitars, giving way to a musical and emotional release.

Later cuts such as ‘Evergreen’ and ‘Drysocket’ keep up the momentum, maintaining the energy and sincerity showcased previously. While stylistically their brand of emotive melodic alt-rock is somewhat limited, Beauty School are still a solid unit. Cabrera’s bold, stirring tone is continuously backed by a spirited outfit that provides an abundance of efficiency. The former (‘Drysocket’) breezes along at an admirable pace, with flashes of harmonious guitars and a sturdy rhythm section.

As for the titular track, ‘Happiness’ contains one of the album’s most infectious hooks; leaning on their pop-punk roots, it’s a heartfelt celebration of companionship through hard times and sleepless nights. “You were like a seed inside my head, I felt the bloom, I felt the growth and I felt it end,” Cabrera sings with a melodic charm.

The closing pairing of ‘Nightwalker’ and ‘Junior’ neatly round off the record, both stylistically and lyrically. ‘Nightwalker’ drifts through at a steady tempo, allowing Craig, Clayton, and Hill to subtly create a stirring wall of sound while being complemented by Thomas’ determined drum work and Dan Shaw’s thorough bass lines. Whereas ‘Junior’ weaves through in a reflective, almost ballad-like manner only to surge through in a celebratory fashion.

For Joe Cabrera, and Beauty School as a whole, ‘Happiness’ (as an album) thrives on the solidarity they have between each other and externally. It is a record that explores maturity, reflecting on days gone by, both good and bad, and the lessons learned along the way. The end result is a musically well-rounded and lyrically optimistic album. Beauty School are a young band that are comfortable in leaning on their influences, while firmly establishing their own emotive voice. Their blend of well-executed hooks, shining melodies, stable musicianship, and impassioned lyrics makes for a promising debut.


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