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September 23, 2023

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Jr. High
Killer of Friendships (Empty Records)

By: Alex Steininger

Led by former front man for Portland, Oregon's cult-status punk band, Crackerbash, Sean Croghan is back with an all new project. But don't go looking for Crackerbash here. The anger and cynicism are still here, but much more melodic. Instead of screaming and bashing it out, Jr. High relies on pop hooks and well-crafted melodies to get their message across. And with their debut CD on Empty Records just released, this power-pop quartet will surely be making a name for themselves in the coming months.

Kicking off the music is "Back Off." It starts out with just a guitar, and as it starts to climb, Sean soon comes in with the vocals. From the opening words he already grabs you with a nice, catchy quote. "Don't go hiding behind kisses. Now you're playing hard to forget," are sang with lots of emotion. Near the end of the phrase the drums start to beat down, and then the whole band jumps into a very melodic pop song. Juicy guitars lead the way, while hard hitting drums and plenty of cymbals help back up everything. The bass is powerful and helps to fill out everything nicely. Jumping through pop hook after pop hook, this song will burn into your brain and stay there for days. "Gotta Problem" starts out with some clear bass, hard hitting guitars, and percussion that is so intense it rattles around in your head. Then as the bass and guitars cut out, Sean sings over the pounding of the drums. From there he continues singing, before cutting out and letting the backing vocals take over. Rich and lush, the backing vocals help to add a lot of harmony to the song. From there the song keeps up the up tempo, rock pace. The drums keep on crashing down, while relying on a lot of cymbal work to help add a lot of texture to the song. The bass powers its way through the number, all while the guitars continue on with hook after hook. Always melodic, this song is action packed and full of punch. "Brian's Pain," on the other hand, is a soft number which shows a different side to Jr. High. Not limiting themselves to just power pop, they turn down the volume and speed on this one to serve up a very melodic number that pulls on your emotions as much as it does your ears. Carrying his voice nicely with the music, Sean's voice beautifully blends with the light percussion, soft bass, and sprinkling guitar as they softly drip through the music. The backing vocals are also done beautifully on this number, giving the song fresh coat of harmony each time they chime in. "Today Is The Day" once again shows the power pop side to Jr. High. Starting out with a very quirky guitar, it suddenly stops so Sean can come and sing "Today's the day, the day that I turn my life back around." With the band silent, and just his voice to carry him, the words rattle around in your head with significant importance. To emphasize even more the band blasts in during the time when he starts to say life. Once again the percussion leads them with its fiery punches, while the guitars always keep things interesting by playing one thing and then blasting you with a hook. "Daddy's Little Princess" divides time between a soft pop atmosphere and a danceable, more up tempo power format. Starting out with some haunting piano to back up his voice, Sean softly sets up the song with some of his brilliantly written lyrics. Slowly the drums enter in, softly tapping in the background. The piano still is the main instrument, before the guitar rips right in. Then the song dives into a more danceable, jumpy style. After another hook is thrown into the pot, the song is toned down to a quieter, softer pace. All the way through the piano is used to help add a haunting tone to the background, a tone that is soft and delicate but still has something unfamiliar to it. Then the guitar once again converts the song to a danceable number, before ending it all softly. "Storm Warning" is a highly infectious, highly danceable number that will hit you with full force and get you moving. Very poppy, but still having a roaring engine to it, it gets you bouncing and jumping with ease. And "Fruitland" closes out the CD with a softer number. Having some very energetic moments, this song nicely closes out the CD with it's middle of the road tempo, and soft melodies interweaved within.

Jr. High has a knack for writing brilliant pop songs that will withstand time. This album is strong today, and will remain that way years from now. Full of hooks, beats you can dance with, soft numbers that bleed to your heart, and strong lyrics, this is a pop album you won't want to miss. Every track on this CD is strong, very strong, and to choose just one song you love will be a difficult task. I'll give this CD an A+.

NOTE: Also checkout the Jr. High 7" review (rock review section) and an interview with Jr. High Frontman Sean Croghan (interviews/show reviews) in this issue.

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