A valid and oft-repeated question regarding indie rock in 2019: ‘When do we get over the 90s?’ It’s a fair point – there are tonnes of bands out there aping the sounds of the slacker era. Speculation as to why it holds so much appeal for Generation Z aside, it’s worth reminding ourselves that if you’re gonna replicate such an omnipresent sound, you’d better do it well. Fortunately for us, Joy Cleaner are among the best.
‘You’re So Jaded’ is the New Jersey trio’s second album, following 2017’s ‘Total Hell’, and it’s a flawless re-examining of the hook-drenched battle between melancholy and euphoria that powers Teenage Fanclub, The Posies and Superdrag at their finest. Those bands are not the only reference points at the heart of this splendid and effortlessly catchy record, but they’re certainly bubbling away at its surface: this is powerpop, with both elements of that word underlined.
Kyle Wilkerson and Joey DeGroot share vocal duties here - they’re equally adept at dousing their hooks with knowing sadness, while a fuzzbox-fuelled kick to the bottom keeps things delightfully loud. “There’s no phoning it in / When we’re speaking all in caps,” they remind us on ‘Pink Lite’, before turning all rueful on us and sighing: “This night is dissolving / When I just wanted it to last.”
Lyrics largely remain on the intriguing side of esoteric, often hinting at meaning while reserving clarity for the rush of melody - a trick from indie rock 101, sure, but one that’s difficult to fault when it’s pulled off with this much panache.
One of the record’s most exhilarating moments comes during the chorus to ‘Bad Advice’, where they circle the chorus to The Posies’ excellent ‘Burn & Shine’ before running off with its best ideas and injecting it with a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am burst of energy. Elsewhere they just make a damn fine racket, whether opening up a little too much (‘Out On The Balcony’ reminds us of the benefits of mixing confessional with party banger) or lamenting their inability to shut the world out (‘So Much for The Quiet Car’). H
ave you heard Joy Cleaner’s like before? Yeah, probably. Will that matter when you find yourself singing along to every song and sticking ‘You’re So Jaded’ on repeat? Nope. Is powerpop, in fact, a genre that is inherently timeless and depends on the skill, heart and personality of anyone playing it?
Well… jeez, what do you think? Not jaded, not even close.
Words: Will Fitzpatrick
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