reviewed by Chris Matei
The idea of “garage revivalism” deposited bands like the White Stripes, Interpol, and the Strokes squarely into the post-90s musical consciousness, a refreshing reminder of the rawness and angularity of rock music after its disastrous excursion into nu-metal self-absorption. Vancouver trio the Jins – named colloquially for the flocks of pigeons roosting in the city’s Downtown Eastside – seem to have remained in the garage all this time, no revival needed. For these three stripped-down rockers, the dour seriousness of late-model grunge and tribal-tatted early-aughts rockism falls aside in favour of a fun, scuzzy, scrappy louder-and-louderness that basically takes every upbeat pop hook you can think and throws it through a cheap fuzz pedal, crashing into a drum kit at full velocity, grinning and head-banging simultaneously.
One might say that The Jins EP thus earns some Nirvana comparisons (who can forget that Cobain was a self-professed fan of twee Japanese surf-pop band Shonen Knife?), but the comparison doesn’t really stick, despite Ben Larsen’s raspy shouting timbre and Jamie Warnock’s affinity for clamorous cymbal battery – apparently it’s an all-too-familiar simile that the band have rejected in the past as well. In truth, the Jins frontman and his bandmates exude more of the energy of Julian Casablancas and co. or even early Green Day, displaying an ear for percussive, tight guitars and ragged, sneering vocal whippiness rather than going straight for grinding heavy noise, and favouring dry, sarcastic turns of wit over mumbly, nihlistic pronouncements. “Fucked Up Nite,” “I Lied” and “Call On Me” are genuinely wicked, hooky rock with a mean streak.
That being said, what keeps The Jins from being a fully enjoyable listen is not so much its rambunctious songwriting approach, but its production and mixing (or rather, apparent lack thereof). Wholly adherent to the DIY sonic aesthetic, the album gets more than a little too drum-heavy at its more feverish pitches (such as the heavier riffs of “I Was a Boy”), with everything competing for space against the hammering cymbals. There’s too much live-off-the-floor skronk and not enough sparkle in the guitars: even the most raucous of punk and post-punk acts knew how to pin their high-gain amps to the mix to create punch and let solos rip with controlled, compressed fuzz.
In the end, The Jins is the kind of distortion-addled punk that will surely bring your heart rate up and perhaps inspire fits of Doc Marten-clad moshing. I get the sense that its appeal might translate much better in a live setting, free to crank up and rip with the aim to make as much kinetic energy as possible jump off the stage. As an EP, however, it seems constrained, trying to pack a whole lot of rock and roll into not quite organized enough of a space.
Top Tracks: “Call On Me,” “Fucked Up Nite”
Rating: Young Hoot (Decent)