By Kyle Anderson
October 11, 2011 at 08:00 PM EDT
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

After nearly a decade of delivering killer post-emo pop-punk hooks and confounding copy editors at magazines, Chicago-based quintet the Academy Is… have decided to break up.

“After nine years and three albums, the Academy Is… have decided to go our separate ways,” the band wrote in a statement on their official website over the weekend. “The music we have made together is a gift to you. From this point on, the Academy Is… belongs to you. Feel free to listen. Listen as loud as you like.”

Though they only released three albums (2005’s Almost Here, 2007’s Santi, and 2008’s Fast Times at Barrington High), the group left a memorable mark on the strange postmillennial decade in pop-punk that saw the rise of emo and the dominance of bands like Fall Out Boy (whose frontman, fellow Chicago native Pete Wentz, got the band signed to Fueled By Ramen).

Their 2007 single “Neighbors” became an unofficial party anthem among kids pogoing in their Vans, but by far the band’s greatest achievement — and in the end, their final album — was Fast Times at Barrington High, a hook-filled sorta-concept-album about the senior year of high school. As a theme, it’s not terribly original, but that universality helped make Fast Times really work. Each of the album’s 12 tracks is soaked with that uncomfortable mix of relief, dread, instant nostalgia, sadness, and joy that infuses most of the final days of extended childhood.

Obviously, frontman William Beckett makes some very specific references to his own experiences (the album is named after the actual high school he attended, and the details contained in the unfortunately titled “Beware! Cougar!” seem to have stemmed from an actual romance with an older woman), but he also grabs hold of a number of rites of passage that would be cliché if they weren’t so painfully true. Saying goodbye to your high school love, old friends, and comforting surroundings requires a complicated stew of emotions, but Beckett managed to balance all of them with ease.

Beckett was barely out of high school himself when he wrote Fast Times at Barrington High, but he manages to nab a great deal of perspective while still being close enough to the past to feel the hurt. As somebody who also spent most of his high school career wanting to break free from the suburbs and move somewhere that felt more alive, only to wonder later what I might have been missing had I just lived in the moment, I instantly identified with Beckett’s sentiments.

Fast Times at Barrington High should be required listening for any restless kids anxious to embrace adulthood; it deals evenly with the happiness and the terror that comes along with that type of freedom. Though TAI announced that all the members would continue to make music, the world is a slightly emptier without the band that crafted perhaps that best summation of 18-year-old melancholy: In remembrance of a great band, crank up “About a Girl.” Listen as loud as you like.


Review: The Academy Is…, Fast Times at Barrington High

Review: The Academy Is…, Santi