Leeds newcomers English Teacher return in stunning B-side tradition on ‘Wallace’.

‘Wallace’ really cements the band as a diverse powerhouse of genres and shows the headier side of English Teacher.

Words: Brad Harris | Photo: Sophie Jouvenaar

My first English teacher was a tall, towering mountain of a man. A man who seemed to only wear large, overfitting shirts that he had accidentally ripped the holes in the armpits of. When he insisted on raising his hand for silence, it allowed us to see deep into the sweat-drenched tufts of hair that grew unchecked underneath. Although the rest of the class found it the height of humour at that point in their lives, I was endeared. This was a man so enthusiastic about literature and the English language he was literally dripping with perspiration.

Lily Fontaine and the band behind her seem equally enthused, both with literature and those that teach it. Latest single Wallace is dripping with wit and cross-cultural references. As she says, the track is “an apocalyptic monologue about what happens when people listen to Wallace Hartley, the band-leader of the Titanic, as a distraction to the sinking of the ship.” Born in her hometown, his name is written on the door of the local Wetherspoons, which led to her developing the song’s central metaphor as a perfect expression of her feelings about “the political leanings of the area and the general rise of the right-wing in modern England.”

In B-side tradition, the song shows a headier side of English Teacher than seen on previous release R&B. The band eases in their ideas with a slacker-adjacent take on post-punk before finding a groove that incorporates a melodic Eastern riff approximating a colossal post-rock sound. It’s understated in a coolly composed way that struck a chord with me. Then out of nowhere, it all gives way to an orchestral rendition of Nearer, My God, to Thee (thematically in the running against Roscoe Roscoe’s Jacob’s Ladder for this Summer’s best religious iconography), a moment of pathos and beauty that really cements the band as a diverse powerhouse of genres. It’s great to hear something as wildly inventive and risky as this. Songs like this are the reason why I – like that first English teacher – sweat with enthusiasm for music.