English Teacher – ‘This Could Be Texas’ review: a subtly brilliant debut from the Leeds quartet

A warm and ambitious debut that puts the art in indie-rock


If you haven’t heard of English Teacher yet, there might be a universe in which you could be forgiven. Rather than TikTok virality, beef-seeking interviews or any other kind of discernible drama, the Leeds band have built their name through festival circuits, 6Music airtime and an admirable commitment to speaking up for Northern and working class creatives. It’s an approach that has allowed them to hone their perspective on the world, whilst still going under the radar of some of the more brutal trappings of mainstream attention.

Whether the band likes it or not, some of that universe is about to implode. ‘With This Must Be Texas’, English Teacher have happened upon a space of land in which they can truly unpack the kitchen sink novella of their own creation, marking a territory where old and new songs alike can step out of the spaceship and enjoy the soft, hospitable air.

From the opening twinkles of ‘Albatross’, there’s a lo-fi warmth and relatability that marks them out from other bands who’ve been hit with the post-punk tag. Opting for inquisitiveness rather than intellectual superiority, it sets the tone for the record’s loose sci-fi noir theme, using alienation and otherworldly arrival as metaphors for societal class suppression. ‘Not Everybody Gets To Go To Space’ is the most literal reference, using the image of an Astronaut to humorously ponder the sentiments used to hold those of lower social mobility back from certain careers: “You’re too busy / how could YOU fit it in?


‘Broken Biscuits’, meanwhile, is pulled straight back to earth; split prescriptions and overcrowded rooms fighting for space amidst the jaunty piano, growing slowly and quietly mad: “Can a river stop its banks from bursting / blame the council / not the rain.” It’s political sure, but told through artful storytelling rather than sledgehammer slogans.

Some pleasures are even more straightforward. ‘I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying’ is indie sleaze gold, a cajun dance party of a melody that captures both the fizzing adrenaline of anxiety and the utter mundane inanity of having to explain yourself over and over again. Alongside ‘Nearly Daffodils’ deliciously odd punchlines (“sometimes it hits like a freight train / through a Christening”), it’s a showcase of English Teacher’s taut rhythm section, honed through years of live shows. There’s the oddity and frantic guitarwork of Jockstrap or Black Country, New Road, but a much more linear sense of tension and release.

In recent interviews, English Teacher have been open about how some songs are worked on independently, brought to the group only when ready to have their extra colour filled in. As the band’s singer and core lyricist, Lily Fontaine in particular has massively grown in confidence, able to merge her influences with a unique vocal performance that seems to know intuitively which version of her tone each song needs. The album version of ‘R&B’ goes a touch less hard on the delivery than the 2021 EP version did, but ‘You Blister My Paint’ is gorgeous, swooning stuff, delivered with the inflections of rainy-cafe jazz and a love of Arctic Monkeys tuning through fuzzy radio stations at the Tranquilty Base. The vocoder layers of ‘The Best Tears Of Your Life’, feel markedly different to ‘Mastermind Specialism’, an Elbow-esque ballad about choice paralysis and the womanly pressure to have it all, but it all come together in the context of her embodied delivery, speaking as if in constant dialogue with herself as well as the listener. 

The culmination of it all is of course ‘Albert Road’, a tear-jerking, love letter to growing up and out of small-town mentalities. Measured at first but swelling into clutching gulps, the emotion of it all feels custom-made for anybody mixed-race and constantly living at the intersection of two cultures, for anyone torn between hometown loyalty and the longing for something bigger, for anyone who knows what it’s like to receive ignorance and yet try to empathise with the fragility within. It’ll sound really bloody good as the sun is setting at a festival— or heck, as the jubilant soundtrack to the black-and-white slow-mo of a band securing their first Mercury Music Prize nomination, if we were daring to dream so big. 

From this porthole window, those dreams don’t seem quite so distant. As Fontaine puts it herself on ‘Best Tears…’, “You can take the girl out of her comfort zone / but you can’t put her back”. There is simply no way that a record like this could be made anywhere other than the British North, full of hope and grit and bravery and ultimately, belief — commitment to the idea you can make guitar music that is odd and intimate but still packs a commercial punch. English Teacher may be making jokes about interstellar exploration, but as far as debut albums are concerned, this is a passport to pretty much anywhere they might wish to go. 

English Teacher – 'This Could Be Texas'
english-teacher-this-could-be-texas-reviewReleased 12 April 2024