My Education’s lauded 2002 album, 5 Popes, has been remastered and released with a bonus track. Although they haven’t reached the heights of other post-rock bands of the past 12 years and didn’t get much more popular than some regional recognition and college radio airplay, they have a fairly distinct, shoe-gazey sound that eschews vocals (and instead relies a bit on fairly ethereal voice recordings) and sounds incredibly polished. The remaster only makes it sound cleaner with the band finally able to get it on vinyl as they had always wanted.
5 Popes open with a statement; “Concentration Waltz” is a potent opener with guitar work reminiscent of vintage Mogwai. It manages to also be sweetly melodic too, knowing just when to lay on the power and just when to dial back the energy. “Lesson 3” takes a bit longer to get going, but ultimately makes for an even more satisfying midway burst of guitar. The album does run out of a steam somewhat at the second half. Although this EP is only five tracks, each one is quite long, so the length ends up resembling that of a fairly long album. It doesn’t feel like it has enough energy to carry itself through its 44 minutes. This EP is certainly made with a great deal of care, to the point where things can feel a little too gradual at times. The ways the sound shifts and varies seem to meander and make a long record feel even longer. The deft melodic touch of the first half doesn’t quite carry over for the entire album.
In the end, 5 Popes may be a success in its function for fans. Although the audience may be limited, fans and the members of the band wanted to see this album on vinyl. As a busy album with many sounds shooting out from the seven band members, the polish this remastered version possesses overwhelms some of the flaws here. While it doesn’t necessarily save the album from being over-long in places, it still makes for an album worth admiring.