[Album Review] JPNSGRLS- Circulation
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)

by Mark Anthony Brennan


Release Date: July 15th, 2014
Label: Light Organ Records

JPNSGRLS (pronounced ‘Japanese Girls’) put together a batch of high energy punk-pop on their full-length debut, ‘Circulation‘, and there’s a lot to like here. There’s trashy punk outbursts and heavy metal power chords. There are grungy lows and power pop highs. The vocalists, who spins some quirky lyrics, has a singing style that falls somewhere between British ’70’s glitter and American ’90’s indifference, and he throws in some screams and falsetto for good measure. So the ingredients are all there, but the question is whether they can successfully pull all of the elements together.

Things start off on a promising note with the spunky grunge rock number “Smalls”, complete with some intriguing stops and starts. After the first track, however, things get a little uneven to say the least. The band performs best when they keep the pedal to the metal on songs like “Mushrooms” and “David & Goliath”. When they slow the pace a tad on “Tennis Shoes” it comes off sounding like a million other alternative power pop tunes, such as all those filler tracks on Blink-182 records. Worse yet is “Southern Comfort”, which veers too close to radio-friendly ’80’s pop for comfort. The balance of the album has the odd catchy melody here and good riff there, but just lacks that je ne sais quoi to make things gel.

The outstanding exception is “Brandon”, a song so good that it could end up on several ‘Top Ten Tracks of the Year’ lists. It’s a scorching slow-burn number, with the throbbing bass playing high up in the mix and a melody that is downbeat but engaging. Lead singer, Charlie Kerr, relates the story of a teenage girl coming to terms with her lesbianism (or is it a gender-confused boy?). We get the sense that she (he?) is messed up because of her parents’ divorce, and the narrative concludes with the deliciously baffling line, “I finally saw the blue in your eyes/at the morgue.” What follows is an exquisite outro, featuring some high-pitched tremolo guitar picking.

You could be philosophical about the album and quit griping about what could have been and just be happy with what we’ve got, because what we do have is a collection of solid and enjoyable songs here. What’s frustrating though is that they are teetering on the brink of being truly exceptional.