Jena Berlin - Quo Vadimus (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Jena Berlin

Quo Vadimus (2007)

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While Quo Vadimus admittedly feels less dynamic and diverse than Jena Berlin's debut, Passion Waits as the Program Keeps Going, the album should begin to shed the band's previously obvious comparisons and contains enough vigor and standout moments to mark it as a slight improvement.

Shades of Hot Water Music and Fugazi still linger here, with Jon Loudon's firm shout as gravelly as ever and the band's rhythms just angular enough to prevent the band from otherwise simple mid-`90s emo placement. However, Jena Berlin bring their own tricks to the table with memorable sections of catchy melody sandwiched between subtle tempo changes and chugging guitars. Take the first two songs for example: When Loudon shouts in opener "Chelsea," quoting himself, "'We're done / with this!'" it feels like a momentous occasion, a personal revelation; with a pinch of harmonizing, Loudon's emotional declaration in "Communique" ("I will wear / these conversations every single place I go") hits hard and strongly resonates.

While it does hurt the band's aforementioned dynamism, Quo Vadimus is definitely less intense than Passion. Rarely, if ever, does Loudon erupt in an angry fit like he did on Passion ("Nothing Personal, Just Business"), but his newfound 'restraint,' if we can call it that, establishes a calmer, more consistently balanced mood. A rare burst of throatier action occurs in the energetic, shifting "Motion Sickness," but elsewhere it's difficult to find Loudon at all seething -- not that it's a bad thing. If Passion was Jena Berlin with a severe personality disorder, Vadimus is the medicated and newly focused Jena Berlin.

Sure, it seems like mere baby steps have been taken, but Quo Vadimus has been sitting so long on the shelf that it's likely Jena Berlin's transitional phase is already passing and the next evolutionary step is moments away.

Quo Vadimus