reviewed by Kaitlin Ruether
Recently I find myself reflecting on the nature of having fun, and where it intersects with ideas of being grounded in the real world. It sometimes feels as though amusement is something lofty and extravagant, while realism must be more serious. I’m interested in the places where that proves untrue, where the edges blur, and Montreal’s (by way of Peterborough) Prime Junk certainly inhabit that space with their second EP, Ladybird.
From the opening notes of “Dreams”, Prime Junk pair catchy melodies with accessible lyrics, even while capturing the surreality of dreams. “I had a dream that we kissed, tried to kiss you on the cheek but I missed,” vocalist and guitarist Nat sings. The track has all the unrefined edges of garage pop, but also a sweetness, particularly with Nat’s last lingering vocalization. This tone seems to be one of two directions Ladybird pulls in, and returns on “X-Files”. Here, the music shifts towards something more ominous, something as mysterious (and subtly romantic) as an episode of the show for which it takes its name.
If quick, high energy tracks are one side of Prime Junk, the other side is something groovier and more explorative. Album highlight, “Dude”, hits its stride after each chorus, when the guitar and bass mingle and expand. There is a tension to the mix, something buried underneath, where the tones meet each other and spark. “Settle Down” gives the guitar a fuzzy moment in the spotlight with a repeated riff, and the key change at the end playfully counters the thematic desire to move on to something new. This idea of being stuck returns at the end of the EP with “Swimming”. The narrator reflects on a life of “sitting and drinking and watching Trailer Park Boys”, and wonders if breaking free of this routine is possible. The chaos of life is reflected in the big noisy finish, and reality comes crashing down as the final notes reverberate.
There is a place where fun meets reality, but Prime Junk remind us that the balance can be precarious. Too much of one thing can lead to stasis; not enough of either can lead to incompleteness. From television references to relatable dream recantations, Prime Junk are walking the tightrope with the rest of us, and both teaching and learning while they’re at it.
Top Track: “Dude”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)