Junior Battles - Hotel Bibles
Record Label: Black Pint Records
Release Date: April 24, 2009
Canada seems to be a breeding ground for punk rock bands the past couple years, and whatever your take is on the "orgcore" series of skate-punk influenced boys who tour the Great White North (and beyond) in rundown vans, it appears it's not likely to die down anytime soon.
With a name like Junior Battles, these four Toronto natives sound like a pop-punk cavalcade looking for some fun & some ears eager to listen to some complaints about girls (and possibly cooties, which are far worse than stinky ol' swine flu). While some of this is true, the band's first six-song, 15-minute EP, Hotel Bibles, is driven around hook-filled melodies & aggressive bursts of guitar-riff chaos over decently clean vocals. That may be the only hesitation fans of this genre may shy away from, and really, it's mostly a production issue.
"We're Not Coming Down" is a slightly obtrusive number that contains sludgy guitars over a toned-down vocal delivery, failing to truly capture what is to come. Once "Will and Words" gets going, it balances itself on a steady stop-and-go beat, with an anthem-ready chorus. The title track is one half Jawbreaker, one half Saves the Day -- it's fast yet melodic, relying on its uncompromising honesty to carry it to the finish line. "Rip It Up" won't get a massive circle pit started, as the band is less concerned with pacing than they are with melody, with a final 20 seconds that could be a wonderful rallying cry, with some better production touches. "Boats" ends the EP in lavish style, as it is the album's true standout, furiously riding a wicked drum beat and throwing a curve (as compared to the previous tracks).
Despite all this honesty and the upbeat, unified lyrical content, the band ultimately fails at two things: differentiating guitar notes on each song (the album does tend to bleed together if you aren't paying attention, minus "Boats") & ensuring the vocal harmonies are turned up enough and properly layered on top of each other. Some of the charm in the more aggressive pop-punk is found within these errors, but let's be thankful Junior Battles is still new and has time to vastly improve (not to insinuate that they need it).
As with most debuts with new bands on small labels, production is the ultimate downfall and right now, the band is still out there writing songs about here & now in their lives, in order to relate it to the same type of people who want to hear it. If Junior Battles does manage to find a larger budget, there's no telling what kind of effect it will have on them, as it could assist in focusing their songs, tightening the package and strengthening the vocals (which could very well be a key piece to their success).
Hey, as long as it's not more radio-rock clones or Gordon Lightfoot, we're totally fine with whatever music our Northern neighbors want to pass down.