Labels are pretty spineless, aren’t they? (Bye-bye, promo copies . . . ) Anything that “falls between stools” confounds marketing departments . . . don’t call us, we’ll call you, OK? Which is probably why the Junior Boys—Canadians Jeremy Greenspan, Johnny Dark, and Matt Didimus—waited so long for a deal. Call them blue-eyed garage or swingbeatclash, but just don’t call them IDM: The two EPs released so far on England’s very brave KIN are a tantalizing introduction to the JBeez aesthetic. “High Come Down” is the not at all impossible meeting place between Hall & Oates and Timbaland. “Birthday” rigs up a rainy-day 2step pattern and chills it the most with nuvo wavo romanticism. “Last Exit” bristles with thickets of beats as spiny and spare as those of the new darkside U.K. garage, but the bruised fruit vocal hiding within couldn’t be less grimy.
It’s reductive, though, to call the Junior Boys the alternative to Dizzee/Wiley/et al. They simultaneously invoke a half-dozen other genres (heroin house, synth pop, electro, modern U.S. r&b), and grime’s ruffneck soldiers are very much slaves to the vibe of Londontown. But the Boys seem to have soaked up all the nimble fluency and sheer beauty that grime sloughed off while escaping the pleasure principle. Like A.R. Kane in the late ’80s, who smeared their post-Mary Chain guitar spuzz over then current house pianos and hip-hop breaks, the Boys’ combo of neutered soulboyisms and jiggy electronics gives the impression they could be the start of something new for indie rock. Or the public could settle for another wave of emotionally constipated electroclash crypt robbing. In which case, fuck you all, I’m moving to Neptune.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 2, 2004