Review Summary: A modern day pop-punk joyride that their peers should listen to.
Do you remember that time when pop-punk bathed in popularity with bands such as Fall Out Boy, Simple Plan and The All American Rejects? And then the flaming embers of the pop weighed punk past on in favour of a more aggressive, punk sounding style made famous by the likes of Paramore.
Pop-punk is a genre that even in its highest point of popularity has received criticisms for linear and predictable song structures, almost too similar sounding songs and a lack of innovation that gently brought the genre into a dire need of change.
Well, here is Juice Box. A band willing to inherit the good qualities of the bombastic, catchy and mind reverbing one-liners of the genre and compliment this with diverse song structures, a variety of instrumentation and quality musicianship. Their peers better take notes.
The album opens with a familiar, ethereal sound of a strumming acoustic guitar married with a partnering electric guitar and the gentle, low hum of a keyboard we’ll become fortunately familiar with as the album progressives.
“Unprepared, I walk in against my will… or so I say.”
The vocals and melodies are traditional to the genre but as Juice Box soon prove; not everything is as it seems. Unexpected key-changes are of plenty on The Good Stains and much welcomed. It’s a polite slap in the face for thinking you know what the band and the genre are all about.
As the verses and choruses of the open track trot along expectedly, roughly at the 2:15 mark, everything takes a 180 degree turn. Suddenly the keyboard bounces along to the clap of the drums and the whole schematics of the verses change.
This is evident throughout the album. Even the second track ‘The Next Thing’ which serves as the traditional, up-beat pop number throws the listener into structural changes unfamiliar to the genre with a charismatic and ear-canal hopping vocal effect on the lines
Key changes and diversity in structures aren’t the only thing Juice Box offer on The Good Stains. There is an attention to mixing and a gritty indie production that give the songs and musicianship on the album a chance to flourish. Especially the game drum sounds which are both superbly mixed as they are performed. The tasteful drumming by Stacie Fleischer is a testament to how this album can be plucked apart and enjoyed being listened to for one particular instrument and how it hooks onto and manoeuvres through your ears, whether this is the bass, guitar, keyboards or vocals. It’s nice to hear these qualities in a genre that often relies on blending the instruments into the melody.
Juice Box succeeds because they treat every song like it’s as important as the one before it. Like any good band, there is an overall style dressed throughout the album but each song has something different to offer musically. ‘The Hair Song’ offers a bubbly vibraphone and hand claps flicking happily at your ears, while the chorus of ‘Here’s to the Days’ is equipped with charismatic keyboard stamps elevating the song with a bombastic quality.
There are lots of sounds to fish around for on The Good Stains and it’s nice to hear this level of uniqueness baiting for listeners in a genre that starved itself with familiarity in my opinion. If I had but one complaint it is that I’d like to hear the band go even further. Give pop punk tasteful brass sections, glockenspiels or elevate on the gentle violin on the closing moments of ‘I’ll Cover That’.
My final thought on the album is its use of the time each song takes up. They are mostly standard in length but within the spaces of time, fill up a lot of room complimenting both the verses and choruses with weight rather than highlighting the chorus as the focus. On top of this, they swim into different waters.
For instance, ‘Sticky Molasses’ has time for a change in structure, a break-down and a revert back to the style of the beginning all just under four minutes. None of this sounds rushed or lazy, it’s all blended incredibly well. It makes me wonder what the band would be capable of tackling massive bridge sections too.
To say Juice Box is a pop-punk band with promise is an understatement. There is so much that is willing to happen with their fearless leaps into bizarre effects and a burling appreciation of the genre. So, to all those who aren’t a fan of Fall Out Boy or The All American Rejects but found something to like in their heart-sored, catchy choruses; Juice Box are here to fill the void and go the full way.
Giving Pop-punk a fresh face of cheerfulness, they’re a band with buckets of potential worth looking out for, as their debut suggests.