When: Tue., June 6, 8 p.m. 2017
It's been a decade since Junior Astronomers first emerged as a vehicle for the charged, anxious laments of frontman Terrence Richard, but to date the band's output has been confined to a series of well-received seven-inch EPs. That changes with the release of Body Language, the first full-length by the Charlotte foursome, on which the band refines its talent for sparkling, memorable hooks without sacrificing the ferocious, feral energy of previous records.
The one-two punch of "Body Language Part 2" and "That's Why" makes for an auspicious beginning and a bracing distillation of the band's great strengths, with Richard's rasping vocals rising above the urgent din of two of the group's most accomplished anthems yet. "That's Why," with its jittery start-stop tempo and mission-affirming lyrics, is the best thing the band has recorded to date. By and large, Body Language succeeds magnificently as long as the group sticks to its considerable talent for efficient melodies that don't overstay their welcome.
Elsewhere, the pace slows, and results become far less compelling. "Motoring" is an earnest attempt at Quadrophenia-style hard rock that never quite lands, whereas "Gabby" is reminiscent of the sort of ill-advised digressions into seventies riff rock that used to weigh down otherwise enjoyable Soul Asylum records. Then there is the issue of Richard's voice, an idiosyncratic yelp that can convey ecstatic emotion in short spurts but tends to grate over the course of the album's eleven songs, particularly in more meditative moments.
Despite being the band's first LP, Body Language often feels like a transitional album, with an attempt to integrate greater compositional ambition that doesn't always sit comfortably alongside the group's more immediate charms.
Body Language is an admirable gambit that will likely yield dividends on subsequent efforts. In the mean time there is plenty to love on this half-great debut, with its handful of unstoppable tracks. —Elizabeth Bracy