I was in my local indie record store, performing my regular binge buy. I grabbed about 6 CDs that day and went to the counter to purchase them. After paying, I found that I had a few dollars change, so I figured I'd check out the clearance section to see if I could get any good good buys. And I certainly did!!
My eyes met with an album: Junction 18 -- This Vicious Cycle. This was my first actual contact with this group; I had heard of them before, and I knew they were on Fearless, the same label as one of my favourite bands of all time (that being At The Drive-In), but I couldn't help but feel more than slightly skeptical about the quality of an album reduced from $25.50 to $18.99 to $8.00 to $4 (Australian currency, mind you; that's like $2.50 US!). Nevertheless, I bought it with anticipation, albeit low expectations. And as the tale ends, I got home, put it on, and after several listens I have to admit, really like it.
As for the music, this is the debut album (and only full-length to date!), of the Boston five-piece. I guess you would call this melodic pop-punk (gasp!!) in that most of the songs use the standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-hook-chorus with simple, catchy riffs and hummable tunes likely to stick in your head for days. There is nothing original in this music, however there are factors which set this far apart from most of the mainstream crap today, like, say, Blink-182, Simple Plan or New Found Glory. For starters, with the vocal range of Andy, his voice can start off sounding like Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio (in fact, AK3 would be the first band I would compare J18 to, although J18 don't incorporate goth into their music and they're more melodic than the trio) to a faster, higher-pitched punkier sound.
Another point of this album which is commendable is the lyrics; these guys clearly worry more about the credibility and thoughtfulness of their lyrics; they're not trying to appeal to a mass audience with stupid teen angst lyrics. A piece from "Adrift" goes "Out my window it rains / it cleanses through you, the eyes of a closer kind can only see this through. After all it's just a lifetime...this drink has drained me of my disguise."
The album starts off with "Dakota," a fan favourite, but I personally can't really get into it. Then comes "Sweet Steps," the first single, and it's easy to see why: It instantly appeals to the listener and is probably the most catchy song on the album, but not my favourite. That position is filled by track no. 4: "Granite Night Street Fight," probably the most aggresive on the album, complete with crunchy guitars and "interesting" subject matter. Other high points include "Lucky As Mars," "Turnabout," "June And The Ocean," and the closer "Abeyance." There are no songs on the album that I really dislike, but those stand out above the rest, and some just seem to get repetitive when listening to the album in its entireity. Some just don't stand out as being any more than background music when you're reading or something of that sort.
I can see the promise in this band. I feel they are greatly underrated, and if they can make the right moves and not fall into the pit of the mainstream, I'll follow them. Probably not for the punk rock enthusiasts who refuse to accept anything other than hardcore Oi! (you don't wanna lose your scene points, eh?), but it's good enough for me. In other words, the best $2.50 I've spent in the last 3 years.