There are bands who love making music that with nonsense lyrics that are just a damned good time, there are bands who create catchy songs in order to make a buck or buck, but there are also bands who have grown up in a small town punk scene and have adopted a particular set of ideals that comes across in their music, Junior Battles have punk rock in their hearts, they grew up in the subculture and it is a part of who they are, anyone who shared that upbringing will identify with every chord and every word.
Junior Battles starts off Idle Ages, with a bang and they keep up the energy for the distance. They pair catchy pop punk with lyrics that have substance with some of the strongest vocals I have heard in a long time.Though I loved them music and more than once woke up singing one song or another, it is their lyrics that set Junior Battles apart from their contemporaries.
Now, I am hesitant to say the this is emotional punk, because it is in no way emo, but their lyrics are so authentic and relatable, that I can’t help but associate the term emotional to my reaction to the album. The aptly titled Idle Ages focuses on the thoughts, fears, and questions that begin to appear in the transitional years of our twenties when we awaken to the shift of adolescence to adulthood. The idea of selling out your punk rock ideals in order to earn a living or just the idea of becoming an adult in general is a topic that most every punk rock kid has had to face and evaluate for himself. Each track of the album stops to examine a different part of this exploration.
The album kicks off with Seventeen, an energetic song with a steady build, playful layered vocals, and a solid melody jumps right into both the sound and message of the album. In just three lines Junior Battles define not only the attitude of the lyrical content of the album, but also a whole subset of the culture, “We only answer to ourselves/ We always stayed true to the ideals we held/ When we were sober and we were seventeen”. By the end of the track they have already lead us past the idealistic teenagers into the questioning, “Body’s growing old while our hearts languish in the gutter” and “So you wake up every morning and you compromise/ It’s easy to forget the places where you tried to draw the line/ We’re all just doing the best we can”. In this single song, they have created a scenario where not only does the listener identify, but it also sparks some questions deep inside him.
Track 2, Twenty Five, carries on the kick ass pop punk with the layered vocals in just the right places and also discusses the issues of getting older in terms of age, yet not in terms of actions. It creates some very open ended questions, is not acting like a typical adult is a bad thing, is settling down is the right thing for everyone, all the while knowing that you cannot go on living at the rate that you are. “We think we’re justified, by saying, we’re still young, When I turn 25, as if anything will change, but most of all, will I be happy”.
Nostalgic at 23 has a different feel to it than the other songs, slower and a bit more menacing, the tradeoff of lines between Aaron Zorgel and Sam Sutherland tell the story of the track, “Yearbooks are like hand grenades / Their nostalgic at 23 / for the things they barely lost / and people that they happened to meet”. Yet, it is not our narrator that is nostalgic, he is giving us his insight into his peers, he seems to have already come to an awareness, “Don’t be nostalgic at 23 / All the things you thought you lost / Aren’t even close to what you wanted to be”. The pauses between lines are filled with a brooding music and hollow, almost cynical, whispered backing vocals add another dimension to the song.
Not only does this whole album offer a variety of different musical nuances and styles but track 4, Ever Get The Feeling You’ve Been Cheated, starts off with a twang, then seamlessly transitions into a heavy brooding section, followed by screamo, all before you get to the catchy chorus, which is followed by metal guitars, and even a bit of a jazzy saxophone. Within all of this musical melding they are offering the most blunt lyrics so far, “Did your boss tell you how to get it right / this is a scene that you built to break in / turn chords into jobs and dollar signs”. To the nostalgic, “Keep a tapedeck running next to our bed / So we are never alone / Never alone in our room / Shouting the slogans that we learned at your shows / and we were never alone / Never alone in our rooms” .
Birthdayparties vs. Punkroutine, Alternate 1985, and Send the Pilots Away are solid punk tracks. Architecture is an acoustic track that is and simple straight to the point, “We’ll still have ourselves, when we don’t’ own anything else.”
With Honours, is a bit twangy and quietly addresses the idea of selling out so that you can pay your rent, “In the quiet we can forget / Forgive ourselves and maybe get some sleep / Every morning we make choices / To kill ourselves / For somebody else’s dreams”. The music gets heavier to mimic the building tension of the lyrical content, “Turn off the lights and think of how we’d sleep /If we would just give up all these fixtures”. The listener immediate gets the idea about how many times this question is asked over and over, without a proper answer.
Radio is an amazing conclusion to the album. There is a quiet intensity running through the track that builds up to a breakdown with voices singing in unison that incites the listener to sing along while they fail their fist to the beat. “Never mind the tape deck / It is a poorly lit reflection / And we are not sure how / We got this far from home / But we fell apart”. Though there is no conclusion or answer there is an awareness and the desire to fix the trajectory.
I know that this review is heavy on lyrics, but don’t let they scare you, this album will rev you up and not drop you until the silence after the last note. This album reached inside of me and made me remember why I fell in love with punk rock in the first place and I immediately wanted to share this record with everyone I ever went to shows with. So go to Paper + Plastick and pick up a copy, you will not be disappointed.