Junior Battles

Idle Ages

Written by: PP on 01/12/2011 04:39:48

In an era where pop punk's reputation is at an all time low, where superfluous make-up wearing pop stars dominate the genre's public domain, there's a dire need for bands like Junior Battles. Bands that sacrifice commercial success for integrity and artistic completeness. We've already seen reactionary pop punk (Man Overboard) and realist pop punk (The Wonder Years) as a countermeasure for the over polished and ultra poppy direction the genre has been taken to in the last few years, and now we can add a third soldier to the battle: intelligent pop punk. Or that's what I'm going to dub Junior Battles' debut album "Idle Ages" anyway, for the lack of a better expression.

"Idle Ages" is a loose concept album about growing up. It's also an album about self-actualization and realizing who you are as a person. It's an album about growing up for those of us in our mid-twenties, where the protagonist is in a conflicted situation of looking back at the innocent days of our late teens while worrying about the consequences and responsibilities of an adult life that awaits in the future. It's a loose concept album because the record doesn't follow a central story or one character, but rather offers us brief moments of insight into the varying states of mind of a young adult standing at the crossroads of his life. We are never told if this is a fictional person or someone from Junior Battles, but that doesn't matter. The level of detail and the introspective nature of the album is simply wonderful, and offers real and valuable advice and opinion on the topic of growing up.

On "Seventeen", the band sing about making "a list of reasons we're making this morning to never feel angry or get disappointed.", further going on to state that "we only answer to ourselves, we always stay true to the ideals we held, when we were sober...when we were seventeen.", a commentary on the naive idealism of youth. Already in the next song, "Twenty Five", the band returns to reality and sings one of the most meaningful passages of the record:

You're always high and I'm always down.

We think we're justified by saying we're still young.

When I turn 25, as if anything will change.

Well I've made up my mind about staying in one place

For more than a year. Maybe two or three. But most of all....

will I be happy?

Where the first song had a bright and optimistic tone instrumentally, even playful in a way, resembling a more complex modern Fall Out Boy, "Twenty Five" is delivered with immeasurable angst and hopelessness in the guitars and the vocals, driving the expression towards the emotional outbursts of bands like Punchline and perhaps even Armor For Sleep to some extent. It's a brilliant usage of contrast where lyrics and instruments conjoin seamlessly to form the basis of the remainder of the album, namely that battle between youthful optimism and cynical outlook of the realization that the world isn't quite as nice of a place as you originally thought it was.

"Nostalgic At 23" continues the theme of self-loathing with a brilliant opening line of "Yearbooks are like hand grenades. If you don't want to let go, you'll wake up missing a limb", before summing up what most of us uni students do every weekend in its infectious chorus:

Every time we get together, it's all shit talk and whiskey breath. It's a wasted night we won't remember. Maybe I'll drink myself to death. Here lies all that remains, if you don't want to let go, you'll wake up missing in the end. Don't be nostalgic at 23.

The same theme of self-realization goes further with lines like "I know it seems like I flaked out on you, well the truth of it is I flaked out on me too.", which is sung, almost screamed passionately to add dramatic effect, but later on the character finally realizes that "We'll still have ourselves, when we don't own anything else", a line that's repeated as a leitmotif across two separate songs on the record, every time sung with a sense of joy and optimism, as if everything hasn't been lost just yet.

Needless to say, the lyrical theme is much, much darker, and far more intelligent than what you normally encounter in pop punk. That is one of the reasons what makes "Idle Ages" so good. But perhaps even more importantly, the instruments follow suit. Whether it's the quirky guitars, the high-octane tapped leads, the quiet/loud dynamic, or the groovy saxophone solos, the trumpets that are introduced in exactly one song, even the screams on "Ever Get The Feeling You've Been Cheated?", they all fit together seamlessly, and together with the lyrics, form an overall picture and thematic grounds for one of the best concept albums I've heard since "Trainwreck" by Boys Night Out. Best of all? It's entirely possible this has been done unintentionally. There's plenty of evidence that Junior Battles went out to write specific songs about nostalgia and self-actualization without necessarily trying to make them fit together into a concept album. But that's perhaps exactly why it works. The contrasts are stark, but make sense. The topics are real stuff that every young adult can relate to. Junior Battles don't sugarcoat the truths or dress up the realities of growing up. They simply tell them as they are. That's why they are so convincing.

"Idle Ages", dear readers, is what happens when a band 'clicks'. It is an infectiously catchy pop punk album that makes mockery of its peers by being so while also being intelligent and providing a ton of depth at the same time. Album of the year candidate.


Download: Twenty Five, Nostalgic At 23, Birthday Parties Vs Punk Rock Routine, With Honours
For the fans of: Punchline, The Wonder Years,
Listen: Bandcamp

Release date 28.06.2011
Paper + Plastick

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