The Junior Varsity – Cinematographic

Victory Records wants you to believe that The Junior Varsity should be lauded by fans of Led Zeppelin. They don’t directly compare them to Zep, but to say their fans are one and the same is an audacious statement nonetheless- and one that, it must be said, holds no water. Don’t believe the hype- Bonzo would spin in his liquor-soaked grave if any self-respecting rock fan considered The Junior Varsity a sure bet based on their love of Zeppelin.

Galvanized by two solid years of touring behind their sophmore album, The Junior Varsity now have submitted Cinematographic for the public’s approval- and with the effort have demonstrated that mere time put in on the road and in the studio do not an outstanding band make. They start off on the wrong foot with boring chord progressions and those ubiquitous, epic, harmonized choruses that every other emo-pop band cute enough to make a video has beaten to a pulp.

“The Sky” is almost redemptive; it begins with a promising, strong hook (though a thin one) with a stomping beat that then kills itself by spiraling into a ballad and becoming a different song altogether (no, it’s not called a bridge when you have 4 different themes in a row. It’s just inconsistent). The remainder of the album continues as such: hyper-energetic displays of songwriting that have impetus but no conclusion; passion but no direction. Mike Watt, who produced the album, apparently neglected to provide structure to these songs where they were much needed.

The exception to this is the heavily Strokes-flavored “St. Louis” and unabashedly Police-worshipping “The Greatest.” It seems The Junior Varsity can only write decent songs when they’re operating in direct mimicry of those who’ve seen commercial success before; left to their own devices, their sound is less experimental and intentionally abstract than a thinly-veiled mish-mash of stylistic ripoffs. There’s little originality to be heard here outside of the lyrics, and absolutely no coherent musical theme.

On the plus side, the production is clean and full, so congrats to Mike Watt for that.