Maybe a forgone conclusion before the album even came out, the Junior Varsity’s latest, The Great Compromise is another lackluster release.
The clunky and often scatterbrained effort of this record will do nothing if not further illustrate that point. Not only is the sum of the parts, but those individual pieces lack cohesion. Some riffs feel forced, some vocals artificial, and when strewn together, those vocals often sound completely detached from the rest of the band. “Park Your Car” combines the band's attempt at “hard-hitting” chord progressions with some whimsical (whiny) vocals, but the song just doesn’t sound complete. The two parts don’t even come close to meshing, often sounding like they were taken from two completely different songs and mashed together for the sake of it. “I Sang a Song to Be Sung” presents much the same issue -- the band just is not on the same page, and the fact that they try to inject some proggy parts into their pop-punk basis doesn’t bode well either. Things just sound lifeless, and though bits and pieces can come across in an enjoyable manner, the Junior Varsity are wholly unable to sustain that sound.
They try to combat this with the sheer amount of music found here, and I can somewhat give them the benefit of the doubt. This is a re-release of an album recorded two years ago, and they’ve added a ton of music this time around. There’s nine bonus songs, taken from a broad range of releases, including a 2002 self-titled EP, demos, acoustic versions, and even a re-recording or two. It’s admirable that they want to give their fans a window into the songwriting and development process, and sometimes, it even ends up working out for them. The acoustic version of “Mad for Medusa” is somewhat endearing, and the demo rendition of “Everyone’s Got Something They’re Running Out Of” is a quick blast of fun. Still the same terrible lyrics, still some off-key vocals, but the bouncy rhythm can provide some fun on an album that sorely lacks it.
And in a last ditch effort to save the album, there’s some DVD footage as well.
Almost two hours worth, providing a wealth of live songs, interviews, and some stories behind songs on the album. Admirable that they’d put so much material on there, but again, none of it is truly all that compelling. The live footage is well shot and well produced, and if you’re into the songs, you’ll be into that as well. Unfortunately, the songs live do no more for me than the little I was able to take from the songs on record, so the DVD was nothing to write home about either.
Those that are already fans of the band will likely eat this up, if for no reason other than the sheer amount and variety of material. Everything that could be requested from a Junior Varsity fan is here -- the problem lies in the little done to convert those like me, who couldn’t care less about the band in the first place.