What’s the new standard deviation for ‘emo’ these days? Is it better synced to ‘pop-punk’ or ‘punk-pop’? The classifications are passé, for sure. Thankfully, bands like Junior Achiever come along every so often to serve reminders that the only category that truly matters is ‘enjoyable.’
Sure, it’s a hard sell to push the musical credibility of a band with a career highpoint of being featured as musical accompaniment for multiple episodes of “Degrassi: The Next Generation”. The sell gets a bit easier, however, when the guitarist/vocalist is Gene Champagne, former drummer of Canada’s fabulous 1990’s act The Killjoys.
Champagne’s swing from backbeat to frontman has resulted in 36 minutes of fine radio-friendly pop guitar music. “Another Stupid Love Song,” “Suburbs,” and “Say What You Want Me To Say” are modern-day pop nuggets worthy of the same attention and airspace lavished upon bands such as All-American Rejects, A Simple Plan and Good Charlotte. Drinking-and-partying anthem “Daytona” goes from self-deprecating (“…And I kinda think I’m funnier when I’m drinking…”) to brutally honest (“We’ll hit all the bars / We’ll take separate cars ‘cuz you’re never quite sure who you’ll leave with …”) without so much as a bat of an eye.
For curious Killjoys fans, “She’s So Mean” and “Daytona” feature Champagne’s fellow Killjoy alumni Shelley Woods on bass, while “California” could be mistaken for a Killjoys outtake (minus the pitch-shifting on the bridge, that is). Champagne and company also toss in a pretty good ballad with “How Does It Feel,” which sees the band build up around the vocals and piano of special guest Emilie-Claire Barlow.
Of the album’s standout trio of pop tunes, “Say What You Want Me To Say” stands out most by sounding like something Rick Springfield would’ve recorded in the 80’s. Chuckle away, but folks wouldn’t turn up car radios and sing along loudly to “Jesse’s Girl” 20+ years later if the song wasn’t a damn banger. This is the kind of ‘pop’ album that more bands should be worrying about dropping to record these days. In two decades, no one listening to this record is going to say, “Oh man, emo!” More likely, the response will be, “Damn, what a solid album!” – which is exactly how this review would read in five-word form.