Just Friends - Hella (Cover Artwork)

Just Friends

Hella (2022)

Pure Noise Records

When listening to a new album, there’s always a risk when you describe something as “familiar”, as if you’re being dismissive and saying you’ve heard this album before, but that’s the first word that I can use to describe Just Friends’ latest album. Hella has elements of almost every popular rock/pop genre of the last 30 years and does it with an effortless joy.

Stylistically, the third album from Just Friends lies somewhere in the space between pop rap, rap rock, and pop funk for the most part. It reminds me quite a bit of that time in the mid 90s where we all convinced ourselves that throwback lounge music was an acceptable choice. We let Fastball have 3 hit songs and Sugar Ray was relatively dominating (We’ve still not rid ourselves of Mark McGrath despite our best efforts). We weren’t too concerned with substance at that moment. We’d just lost Kurt Cobain, and to us, there was no coming back.

Face it, we’re basic. Chillin’ with my friends, they’re my favorite. We’re the only ones that we talk to now

- Basic

Circling back to the familiarity concept mentioned earlier, I felt the same way listening to Turnstile’s Glow On last year and that was one of my favorite albums of the year, so it’s not a bad thing, it just simply is. Not that these two albums are anything alike, they simply have that air of familiarity that triggers the dopamine release we all love and want out of music, and they pull it off with seemingly little effort.

Lyrically, the album is pretty simple. Not Blink-182 “Pee pee, poo poo”, but at times the lack of lyrical maturity stands out.

You are just a bad boy. Lovin’ you’s a sad choice. All you do is make me cry.

- Bad Boy

There’s an argument to be made that this is a feature and not a bug, and I’m inclined to agree with you. They’re not trying to change minds or comment on any recent geo-political issues, they just want to have a good time and be themselves. It’s breezy and low stakes songwriting most of the time, and when they try to get a bit aggressive, they quietly spit fire (if that’s possible). The lyrics are still somewhat silly and juvenile, but the change in feel between “Bad Boy” (musically a mid 90s R&B viber) and “Stupid” (Which would have been at home on the soundtrack to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 next to Anthrax/Public Enemy) is night and day, but lyrically they’re still just spelling out “S-T-U-P-I-D” to kick the song off.

There are times when you need to be challenged by music, and there are times when you just need a piece of candy. If you’re in the mood for a piece of candy, there’s a good chance that Hella might be just what you’re looking for.