Going Back in Time
Imagine a hypothetical 80’s movie in which the main character is a hip LA music producer. When we first see this guy, he is in his studio producing an up-and-coming new band. Coming through the speakers is any song from the new Junior Boys album, It’s All True. The producer is adjusting the volume knobs and looking through the window into the studio. He has sunglasses, a big perm hairdo, and a pink t-shirt that reveals most of his chest. You don’t question for a second that it is 1987.
Junior Boys, a Canadian duo made up of vocalist/lyricist Jeremy Greenspan and musician Johnny Dark, formed in 1999. This is their fourth full-length album. It’s All True replicates the innocence of the early New Wave sound, but without the melodic and emotive sweetness. There is, instead, the coolness of contemporary artists such as French duo Air and the late LCD Soundsystem. Perhaps it is the band’s icy Ontario home that is rubbing off on them. The sound is minimal, toned down, and creates the one-keyboard effect of the very early 80’s. One pictures this band on Top of the Pops with one guy playing the keyboard and one guy doing vocals.
Some songs on It’s All True, like the haunting “Playtime” and “The Reservoir,” have a contemporary sound that recalls the aforementioned Air, and some songs, like “Itchy Fingers,” remind one of LCD Soundsystem’s whimsical minimalism. And yet the whole album, especially “You’ll Improve Me” and “Kick the Can,” is profoundly indebted to the early 80’s work of artists like Depeche Mode, Yaz, and Erasure. Unfortunately, Greenspan is an unremarkable and breathy vocalist who never really sells these songs. After listening to Junior Boys, some of us will run to our closets to dig up that old Catching up with Depeche Mode tape, hoping desperately that it’s still there.