It’s almost difficult to think that it’s been the best part of four years since the Cardiff pop punk trio Junior released their last EP, Juniorland. In an age and national scene where many musical projects swell and burst in the time frame of just a handful of years, the fact that Junior have been continuously held in such high regard without any major releases during this time to support their name is borderline unparalleled. However, Junior have proved their worth previously. Even prior to the release of their upcoming debut full length, the group have distanced themselves from the stagnation of their respective scene with their fantastic, jubilant and uplifting craft. However, for those few still skeptical to such a claim, Beautiful Life, the aforementioned upcoming long play, is here to silence such dissenters.
Whilst it may have taken Junior almost four years to deliver the follow up to Juniorland, given the circumstances, it’s both unsurprising and understandable. For those unknowing, drummer Si Martin manages and runs the non-profit, mental health charity Heads Above The Waves, bassist and vocalist Mark Andrews is a renowned WWE wrestler who performs weekly on NXT and guitarist and co-vocalist Matt Attard composes theme tunes for a broad range of wrestlers. To say that each member has a most busy schedule would be an absurd understatement. However, Beautiful Life is richly infused with each members respective passions. It’s uplifting as it is riotous. With the focus of the album being on positivity, identity, recovery and finding the sometimes reclusive beauty within life, Beautiful Life is a rumbustious, wild and yet wonderful celebration of both music and life that is simply life affirming.
With 13 tracks present, a number that could be considered ambitious for debut pop punk long play, it’s not unlikely that many will approach this release expecting their resolve to be tested or to experience content that would not strike the bar the previously released singles have reached. However, Beautiful Life never, not once, dips in quality or sinks into the depths of mundane mediocrity. Each track within this record contains its own character and hue, and in truth, makes for a totally arresting, empathically rousing and contentiously joyous listening expedience. Of course, many who are familiar with this brilliant act wouldn’t be surprised in any way shape or form, especially considering the wonderful previously released singles, but to see Junior accomplish such a feat almost effortlessly with their debut is spectacularly gratifying.
Whilst the vast majority of the content present adheres to, yet improves upon the tropes of the pop punk and alt rock genre, there is a great deal of focus present on ambitious experimentation and in pushing the boundaries of the genre to it’s outer limits. Throughout the course of this release, Junior wonderfully utilise a truly broad and colourful palate of instrumentation to joyous effect. Truly, such experimentations in pop punk dynamism are organically successful and to just lazily pigeonhole this release as a pop punk release would be a criminal fallacy. It’s a fact that becomes evident immediately, with the choir of ‘Girls And Boy’s paving the way for low end fretwork and a rousing, emotional anthem that discusses the troubles our generation faces in this cruel reality.
From here on out, Junior takes us a on a parade of sublime imaginativeness. Throughout this release Junior gorgeously animates their aforementioned and crucially positive ideology through the means of theatrical piano led ballads, rich and aggressive riffs, seven string fretwork and subtle yet tasteful nods to hardcore, emo and in the case of ‘When The Tower Falls’ even arguably nu metal. Such endeavours are handled most successfully and see the group handle such elements with both sophistication and taste. Yes, some may smirk at the record’s more ballad orientated moments, such as the My Chemical Romance worthy title track, but it’s impossible not be drawn into these moments of theatrical positivity in which Junior provide.
With Beautiful Life’s beautiful technicolour, rousing warmth, effortless skill and successful experimentation and dynamism, Junior effortlessly manage to establish themselves within a greatly statured genre and deliver a worthy debut that’s been anticipated for many a year. It may be a cliché to say, but each track truly stands as a lead single worthy anthem, with Junior rejecting dull convention for rich, rousing and life affirming creativity. This record doesn't just pack a punch most powerful, it merrily duplexes you into the wonderful and buoyant world in which Junior inhabit. Essential listening, regardless of your current opinion on pop punk.
Beautiful Life is released August 2nd