Friday, July 26, 2013

Album Review: "Dead Nostalgia" by Junior Astronomers

Dead Nostalgia by Junior Astronomers was released
on July 23, 2013 on Broken Circles Records
Following a band through the release of their first full length is always a glorious occasion for a local music lover, it creates a special connection with a band that allows you to truly observe the dynamic changes a group can undergo. Sometimes members come and go, sometimes sonic changes you'd expect are never made and sometimes they never make it to that fated full length record. But all in all you feel like you're truly invested in the band, and that's the way I feel with Junior Astronomers.

They're the little band that could, they put their nose to the grindstone, work their asses off and consistently release music that evokes a visceral reaction from their listeners. Most people feel strongly about Junior Astronomers and that's because the band pours every fiber of themselves into their music. Dead Nostalgia, the long awaited full length proves this.

Dead Nostalgia has been years in the making, the recording took place last summer at Greensboro's Legit Biz and brilliantly displays the ferocity and frenzy that led the group to this record. Countless tours have taken the band throughout the country and these songs have evolved throughout their years of touring, but it's allowed the band to finely tune the intricacies that make these songs so special and unique. While Junior Astronomers' formula may seem very cut and dry to some listeners--spastic and jaunty guitar riffs that serve as bedding for Terrence Richard's guttural shouts and croons--it's a technically impressive sound that seamlessly combines the grit of a punk rock act while taking the twists and turns of math-rock. Regardless of how you label the band's sound, they're undeniably a band that thrives on raw emotionality and that's what ultimately draws in fans of this Charlotte outfit.

Dead Nostalgia opens with a kick in the face, "Before Crimes" sets the band apart both sonically and lyrically. The song opens with a restrained phrase that depicts a world with no more "fireholes" or "atom bombs" before the track unfurls with intense percussion and lilting guitar lines. The album's opener sets the tone for one of the album's standouts with "Touching War." While the song has been a staple of their shows for a few years, the studio version packs just as much power as its live counterpart which is quite the feat for such a gripping song. Richard's Bukowski-esque lyricism delves into boldly intimate territory, tackling self-deprecation and evaluation whilst still maintaining a relatable side. Lyrics that lament over "drinking like my father did"are littered throughout the album as Terrence Richard seemingly questions the difference between having a good time and facing an addiction. But that's part of what makes Junior Astronomers so special, they break down the typical barriers that lie between a listener and a musician.

Tracks like "Gimmicks" and "Blood In Her Brain" serve as excellent displays to this sentiment, one touches upon the woes of being a "black friend" and feeling struggling to meet expectations set for your entire demeanor, while the latter pretty explicitly details the struggles of a loved one dealing with health complications and living in the wake of such issues. "She made me and gave money I spent on drinks at parties, mostly for my numbing," belts Richard, lines like these express an unfiltered sense of self-awareness that cuts through the bullshit and tells listeners about the grit and grime that line our everyday lives.

While Junior Astronomers have lived up to all of the high expectations set forth on Dead Nostalgia, there does feel like a lack of dynamic within the album. Each song goes strong out of the gate--which is most definitely a positive aspect--but each song kind of begins to bleed together due to the similar nature of their layout. Each track features slicing guitar lines, brisk drum beats and their oh so familiar shout-singing. The formula most definitely works, but it's one that can become a bit draining. You don't want to sprint throughout a race, you need moments to catch your breath and regain your composure. But each track on Dead Nostalgia is brimming with intensity in both positive and negative ways.

Ultimately though, Dead Nostalgia cements Junior Astronomers as a band that's making music not only for the thrill and acclaim of it, but because it's a powerful outlet for these musicians to channel their emotions. Previous EPs have let fans know that they Just Want To Make A Statement and that statement is heard loud and clear on Dead Nostalgia. Life moves fast and sometimes dear acquaintances and loved ones can fade into mere memories, but we've got to hold onto those memories with all that's left in us.

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