Junior – JuniorLand review

JUNIORCOVERWales is growing in prominence in the pop punk world – Junior are the latest band of many to emerge from the country. The Cardiff based trio consist of members with more than ordinary careers – a professional wrestler, a children’s book author and a head of a non-profit organisation – who bonded over their common love of music. Just like their professions, the members have promised that their sophomore release JuniorLand is far from the usual themes of pop punk music, with the lads not just absorbed by ‘girls and skateboards’.

Whilst openings for other pop punk records I have recently reviewed begin with an in your face introduction, Junior ensure they run things differently from the get go – the first thirty seconds of A House That’s Not Quite A Home instead opts for a stirring quote courtesy of what sounds like an old sample – ‘discouraged, disgruntled, heck no, they’re glad to be here, remember!’. Another difference from the typical opening track is the mellow instrumental that greeted me after the sample – more chilled sounds are reminiscent of circa 2000 Blink 182 and New Found Glory, and I was glad that Junior have been brave enough to venture outside the box. Although in the first half of the song I felt that the lyrics lacked depth, A House That’s Not Quite A Home improves substantially towards the end with powerful rousing repeats of the chorus. Despite the strident, catchy guitar instrumental for second track Maria, dreary lyrics ultimately let the song down. Persuading protagonist Maria to come outside and play with them feels a bit too bland for my personal likening.

That Pretty Dress is a very pretty song and significantly better – there is a step up in the sophistication of the lyricism, complete with an unpredictable guitar rhythm changing from slow to choppy chords, with time for a sweet solo. It is an earnest track that holds its head up on JuniorLand, and captured my attention the whole way through not sticking to expected sounds from a pop punk track. The acoustic feel of Lakeside is enchanting, and it is again exciting to witness Junior try out another new sound, which makes a pleasant easy-listening experience, with passionate meaning behind it.

What remains of JuniorLand is just as spirited as previous songs – barely lasting long enough for you to catch your breath, If I Had the Time I’d Tell You I’m not Sorry is exhilarating through enthralling drum beats provided by Si Martin, and continues with the clever mix of two main vocalists in Matt Attard and Mark Andrews, with their diverse vocals bouncing of each other well. Leading single Anywhere but Here is another gem and was perfect to release as its summery vibe ensures it is memorable. Winding proceedings up, violin invigorated Epilogue (We Hope You Enjoyed Your Stay) concludes with another inspiration and powerful quote.

Junior, I am delighted to say I mostly very much enjoyed my stay listening to your mini album.

JuniorLand will be released on the 16th October on Ambition Records.
You can listen to Anywhere But Here below.

WSTR – SKRWD review

When a group is signed to a major record label based on one EP, you can immediately deduce something about them – they have an awful lot of potential to make a heavy impact in the music industry. You would be correct to suss this out about WSTR – the pop punk outfit have mastered making promising first impressions, as No Sleep Records has eagerly snapped them up on just the basis of upcoming EP SKRWD.

The band open their EP with South Drive, which if it happens to be the first song a listener has the privilege of hearing by them, it will become infectious listening. With its incredibly catchy hook, I guarantee the track will remain in your head all day. A fun opening catchy song, it carries a boisterous bright spark which gives a promising start to the EP.

Fair Weather doesn’t allow itself to drop in quality; another ridiculously fun song, intricate chord changes by guitarists Danny Swift and Kieren Alder give it shape and added dimension. Although I liked all of the track’s lyrics, one line in particular defined the song for me: ‘my friends are dicks, but I would never have it any other way’. We all have people we talk to who are slightly mad and we do not know why we bother with them, but at the end of the day we wouldn’t want them to ever change, and this sentimentally of friendship adds passion to Fair Weather. My only critique is the band could have added another round of the chorus at the end, only as I felt the song ended too suddenly.

A shift in tonality of third track Graveyard Shift from the two preceding tracks ensures the EP doesn’t sound completely the same and therefore safe. Vocalist Sammy Clifford provides poignant reflective lyrics describing the low point of life when it becomes stuck in a rut, but the slightly more negative literate tone is cleverly wrapped in energetic pop guitar melodies.

There is a danger for any band that the second half of an EP or album fades out with quality, but this is not an issue for WSTR, who manage to keep the momentum going with their final three songs, thanks to the contributions of bassist Alex Tobijanski and Kieran McVeigh on drums. Brainsick is laced with summery guitar licks and pays homage beautifully to bands from pop punk’s golden years Sum 41 and Blink 182. Despite its title, penultimate track Aint Great unsurprisingly is very great, with witty and angst-ridden lyrics building a rousing song explaining a situation which clearly the band are a bit miffed off about. Finally, to end the EP on a high, Devils N Demons is an exciting concluding song that will make you wish SKRWD was actually a full album.

WSTR definitely have over-whelming talent and their EP proves this – it is a tribute to all the best parts of pop punk over the last couple of decades. The group deserve SKRWD to be the step that puts them on the path to success that recent pop-punk groups such as Neck Deep have achieved.

SKRWD is due to released on the 4th September on No Sleep Records.

You can watch the video for Fair Weather below.