Junior Boys Junior BoysIt’s All True
I adore Junior Boys, but there have been times when I couldn’t have them on my iPod. In my emotional history, which I’m not going to unfold here, they’ve been an invisible red thread marking certain ups and downs in my mood. “Last Exit” (2004), despite it being a somewhat dark record, coincided with a good episode and I have a soft spot for it. It was like a manifestation of power (compositive, in their case; the start, with “More Than Real” and the house beat of “Bellona” marked a path of camouflaged epics that would culminate in “Teach Me How To Fight”), but “So This Is Goodbye” (2006) came out when I was down, and it’s hard for me to listen to it, even though I think it’s their best album, unbeatable, where Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus managed to find the balance between their romantic synth-pop and the grooves of the most recent North American urban music, taking the best of The Blue Nile and Timbaland and finding common ground. In this particular story, “Begone Dull Care” (2009) was something of a breaking point: I liked the remixes better and, in general, although the Canadians were trying to find a new way and start a new era (with the discovery of synthetic disco music as a bed on which to create marvellous pop songs), there were too many ballad on the album and it lacked punch.
Now, “It’s All True” is here and the good news is that from the start it sounds like the album “Begone Dull Care” should have been. More DJ-friendly, discreetly but, this time, fearlessly clubby. I suppose it helped that Greenspan collaborated with Morgan Geist (Metro Area) on his album from three years ago, “Double Night Time” (he sung on “Detroit”, “Most Of All”…). Or maybe I should say that the impulse of the moment, the discovery, through Geist, of Italo disco and Morodor synths, was what took him to record “Begone Dull Care” in a hurry, without having digested the new input well enough. It was a rehearsal (never catastrophic, but remember that they had previously recorded one of the best pop albums of the decade), and the second take had to be better. “It’s All True” is better in every way: the whole team is there again (Morgan Geist mixes “Itchy Fingers”, Kelley Polar is in charge of the orchestration of “You’ll Improve Me”, if my ears aren’t deceiving me, some of Dan “Caribou” Snaith’s sounds and ideas are incorporated), and from start to finish, it’s an entity between hedonist and introspective, with hardly any weak points.
There are some mid-tempo tracks, like “The Reservoir”, which sounds like a Eurythmics ballad, or “Playtime”, which features those typical Californian new age synths from the early eighties Ford & Lopatin love so much and which could be used for the love scenes in a remake of “Top Gun”, but apart from these two tear-jerking obstacles, the rest of the LP is aimed straight at the dancefloor, with the reinforcement of the Italo influence, which had disappeared somewhat but is now back completely. “Itchy Fingers” is reminiscent of the somewhat kitschy but always charming Italo (Gary Low, Kano, Fred Ventura) which would have fit Jeremy like a glove, had he been a post-adolescent in 1981. “You’ll Improve Me” has a touch of boogie and some acid embellishments, like a vocal version of FunkinEven, and on “A Truly Happy Ending” and “Kick The Can” we hear some acid accelerations, marking two of the highlights of the record. “Second Chance” and “ep” come close to the electronic funk of Cameo, but without the camp of their neighbours Chromeo: there’s another kind of reverence, but to synthetic sequences, which Junior Boys understand as sensitive material. And what this fourth album has most of all, is a magnificent ending: “Banana Ripple” goes over the nine minute mark (there’s a remix by The Field on the 12”) and it sums up the whole record, turning all of its hypothetical weaknesses, like for example Greenspan’s voice sounding like Rick Astley’s, in undeniable advantages. The result of “Banana Ripple” is that it indicates where things should go from now on: the tempo should go up, they should flirt even more with cheesiness, and they should use the naïve charm of the eighties to their own benefit (never for the sake of revival), and I think that Matt and Jeremy, who sound like they had a lot of fun, know that they have to repeat and improve on this.