JPNSGRLS Build Upon Promise With ‘Divorce’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

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JPNSGRLSDivorce, the second full-length album from JPNSGRLS, continues to build upon the promise of their 2014 debut, Circulation. The sophomore album by the Canadian quartet of non-Japanese men is a frantic 32-minute blitz of unbridled rock intensity.

The album’s opening salvo, titled “Oh My God,” gives no time to catch your breath. After a few frenzied power chords from guitarist Oliver Mann, singer Charlie Kerr’s throaty scream interjects with, “Oh my God, oh my God! You’re finally calling me yours.” The rest of the band then kicks in, driving the song through a series of hard rock riffs and dramatic starts and stops.

The song showcases what JPNSGRLS does best, combining post-punk’s energy and riffing with the raw power and emotion of grunge. Divorce is an album that crams so many hooks into its short run time that comes close to relying too heavily on hooks at the expense of structure. Nevertheless, JPNSGRLS spend the album with the gas pedal firmly pressed to the floor, with the exception of the lone ballad “Circus.”

“A Girl from a Different Dimension” is one of the album’s most frenetic tracks, wildly careening through a series of riffs at different speeds, though it is most defined by Christopher McClelland’s rumbling bassline and Kerr’s falsetto in the chorus. “2009,” with its dynamic shifts from slow to fast, accompanied by Graham Serl’s rapid-fire drums and Mann’s guitar shredding, is the kind of song that can get today’s concert-goers to put away their phones and start moshing.

An album with this much energy can easily become a mindless party album, but that’s not the case here. JPNSGRLS have some serious subjects to discuss between the walls of feedback and pounding drums. “Bully For You,” for example, is an empathetic letter of sympathy for women subjected to misogyny in a male-dominant culture. “The baby’s bedroom’s blanket is pink, so she’ll politely overcome,” Kerr sings. “If only she’d been born a son.”

With the furious, sweat-soaked gusto of  “19 Pound Baby,” JPNSGRLS close Divorce on a high note. Though the band now has some question marks, with Mann leaving the band and being replaced by guitarist Colton Lauro, the four-piece continues charging forward. Relentless in its intensity and deceptive in its intelligence, Divorce serves as an apt follow-up to JPNSGRLS’ critically acclaimed debut.

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