When I first played It’s All True by the Junior Boys, I had to check my calendar. The frenetic beats and light synthesizer chords belting out in the first track, “Itchy Fingers” made me unsure I was listening on my mp3 player with ear buds. This had to be on my Walkman and I must be wearing my headphones with the foam covers to provide comfort for my ears against the hard plastic and the electrical tape holding on the right earphone together that constantly gets stuck in my hair.
This is not 1985 and I do not have to switch the tape over to side B, but Junior Boys have invoked a sound that makes me think of Hall and Oates, Ronald Reagan and parachute pants. The Canadian duo of Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus has released their 4th studio album and it is a journey into a different time and a different type of dance album. It is a funky amalgamation of dub step, drum machines and synth-pop that sounds all too familiar.
I know that these things go in cycles and that we are experiencing a cultural revival and artists paying homage to music styles of 25-plus years ago. When I hear “side A,” I hear a revue of an old genre and nothing new. “Playtime” offers the only uniqueness, with its sultry sound and lines like “come a little closer/ stare a little longer like competitors do” that will have awkward young men playing the song for their dates in their bedroom, letting the band say what they are unable to.
By “side B,” It’s All True starts to pick up the pace and I feel a sense of energy that make me curious to see what their live shows are like. “Kick the Can” is an irreverent and bouncy tribute to 90s house music. The album closes on “Banana Ripple,” a 9 minute dance hit that has enough “concert anthem” in it to close all their shows and has the perfect amount of musical catharsis to properly end an album with.
The two sides are a fascinating musical experiment that reaches two different types of music fans. Those looking for a nod to 80s pop will enjoy the first half of It’s All True and the fan of more contemporary music would prefer the second half. Hopefully there are enough fans of both that will enjoy the entire 9 track adventure by Junior Boys.