After a few years of EPs and splits, Canada’s Junior Battles finally released their debut full length this Summer on Paper + Plastick. With speedy riffs, dual, and gang vocals, they attempt to share a similar vein with acts such as Set Your Goals, The Wonder Years, or Man Overboard. However, they’re taking the poppier road with cleaner guitars and polished production. Idle Ages is a fun, fact-paced album that pulls influences from many different places while trying to maintain its own identity.
Idle Ages gets right into things with a rapid introduction before the song picks up and delves into “whoas” and gang vocals on “Seventeen.” The second track has us jumping 8 years to “Twenty Five.” It opens with a rhythmic bass-line before Aaron Zorgel has listeners beginning to question how much change will occur over the course of a few years. This leads us into “Nostalgic at 23” where both leads, Sam Sutherland and Zorgel, do a call and response in one of the best verses on the album before some of the worst choruses. The direction the song takes at the chorus is very unexpected and unconventional, and it almost kills it. Next up is arguably the strongest track on the album--“Ever Get the Feeling You’ve Been Cheated.” At times it reminds me of The Lawrence Arms and features guest vocals from Damian Abraham of Fucked Up, as well as some trombone from Bomb the Music Industry’s, Matt Keegan. Junior Battles tip their hats at Refused with the following track’s title, “Birthdayparties vs. Punkroutine.” It’s more mid-tempo than some of the past songs and one of the weaker tracks on the album.
It’s with their next number that I reach my first real objection when in the first chorus of “Alternate 1985,” a homophobic slur is unnecessarily dropped. It’s a real deal-breaker for me on the song and has me putting my guard up for the rest of the album. “Send the Pilots Away,” has a real pronounced bass riff while Zorgel spurts out macabre lyrics of dreaming about flying a jet into the ground full of people he’s met. This leads us into the short, acoustic interlude, “Architecture.” It’s a great track, but it’s a shame that it’s so short—clocking in at 46 seconds. The next song, “With Honours,” has a Fall Out Boy feel. Sam Sutherland even sounds eerily similar to Patrick Stump. After “Passing Out,” a track and recording that previously appeared on the band’s split with O Pioneers, we get to the album’s closer, “Radio.” The first minute or so is soothing and more solo oriented, but it eventually turns into a jam session with a gang of vocalists closing out the album shouting, “all the things we believe.”
Junior Battles wrote a solid pop-punk album full of catchy riffs, tight musicianship, and plenty of youthful anthems. Most of the songs on Idle Ages have something different to offer and have enough diversity within them to keep them entertaining. It’ll be interesting to see where they go from here.
Junior Battles have made their name touring and releasing a few splits over the last year or so. So what does a band with a short history do when they get signed to one of the better known upstart punk labels? Well in Junior Battles' case they play on their strengths. The band's basic template of strong, rocking pop punk remains in place for their first full length. While more melodic than most of their label mates they play with their strengths rather than try to be tougher or more gruff.
So how does Paper + Plastick fare with their new signing? Pretty damn well. Needless to say the band aren't breaking boundaries with their style. What they do is play their chosen style very well. that style has a strong focus on the pop side of pop punk. The songs focus on strong hooks and catchy choruses rather than speed and fury. Sitting somewhere just outside of label mates Farewell Continental when it comes to writing hooks. The use of dual vocals does well to strengthen each chorus part making for a good and bad argument of sorts. As the bands consistent use of dual vocals on their choruses makes them both catchier but incredibly obvious at the same time. By the time track four, "Ever Get The Feeling You've Been Cheated?" comes on it does well to break the mold adding in adding a few different things to the pot including screaming vocals and horns. While this does good to break the monotony that may have been building it also sticks out like a sore thumb.
The instruments are played somewhere close to perfect. As mentioned before the concentration is on the pop so the clean playing only helps the hooks dig into the listener the much further. The extremely clean production does little to change this fact. Everything is clear and popping from the speakers at all times. While, this can be good it definitely leaves some amount of ferocity to be hoped for in the faster songs.
Overall, Junior Battles have done a good job with their first record. While this is an enjoyable record it makes one more interested to see what is in the future rather than be satisfied with their current state.
7.45 / 10
Reviewed by 2 writers.
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