By Andrew Hall | 26 September 2011
And once again I’m taken by surprise when I realize that a band that’s been doing their thing, and doing it well for over seven years, has found itself a pretty substantial audience. With the breakout success of 2004’s Last Exit and its followup, 2006’s So This Is Goodbye, effectively behind them, Junior Boys have settled into a comfortable niche making patient, intimate electro-pop for an ever-expanding group of people that appears, if their Seattle show on this tour is any indicator, to have only minimal interest in hype cycles and discovering the Next Big Thing, whatever that might be. They had internalized these songs—they know the words to even at least half of the new album, It’s All True, one even has a handmade shirt quoting the chorus to “You’ll Improve Me,” and after someone yells “FUCK YOU SEATTLE, DANCE,” they move at least 50% more than they did before someone yelled “FUCK YOU SEATTLE, DANCE.”
And Junior Boys appreciate it. Singer/guitarist/pianist Jeremy Greenspan has spoken at length both times I’ve seen them here about how much he enjoys playing at Neumos, celebrating the arcade machines and graffiti in the venue’s greenroom, and their sets have sounded good on both occasions. Though Greenspan and Matthew Didemus at one point performed largely sampler-driven sets, and were running an all-hardware setup when touring in support of Begone Dull Care (2009), their current configuration divided duties more evenly between the three-piece; in addition to their live drummer, Didemus now plays a handful of synths and has added an Ableton rig to their arsenal, leaving Greenspan to spend large periods of the set on a single instrument rather than moving between different racked keyboards, guitar, and bass.
As such, they sounded considerably less fatigued, taking less time to fall into a groove that they rode out pretty well over the course of an hour or so. The often-plodding Begone Dull Care material was jettisoned in favor of It’s All True’s, which moves at similar tempos and feels equally uninterested in hooks, but stays propulsive in a way that much of its predecessor didn’t, while So This Is Goodbye has been reduced to a handful of hits (all of which still prompt the loudest applause) and “Teach Me How To Fight” served as the sole song from Last Exit. However, nothing received as drastic a reinterpretation as the massive rework of “Under the Sun,” which practically sounded like a Studio remix, that served as their last tour’s encore; tonight, they simply played epic-length closer “Banana Ripple” essentially as it sounds recorded, though this wasn’t a bad thing.
Montreal’s Young Galaxy, who opened the show, exist in limbo as they simultaneously work through both the dream pop of their past and the patient, downtempo reimagining of it that they dealt in on their quite good (and Dan Lissvik of Studio-reworked) Shapeshifting. As a consequence, their set, which was split across their entire catalog, felt awkward in places; the early stuff came across as overplayed at times while their new material struggled to maintain its momentum when a real band—and one driven mostly by guitars—approached it, making a strong case for rearranging the back catalog and their touring instrumentation to better complement what they do now. An unnecessarily loud mix certainly didn’t help matters, occasionally burying singer Cathering McCandless’ vocals under a wall of nearly-clipping bass. However, their songs were still there and feel only a few steps away from working well in a live setting.
If this show’s an indicator of anything, it’s that Junior Boys merely have to continue doing exactly what they’re doing now if they want to continue bolstering a rather dedicated fanbase. Though Greenspan and Didemus are no longer at the forefront of any trends, their songcraft has carried and will carry them far, and so long as there’s someone to aggressively tell a room to dance to it, they’ll be danced to.