Junior Violence

Ape School

Home Tapes, 2012


REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


Songwriters are a dime a dozen these days, but few have the creativity of Philadelphia's Michael Johnson. Formerly a player in the Florida DIY scene and a member of the much beloved Holopaw, more recently Johnson has played with War On Drugs and Kurt Vile. These days he's on the solo route under the moniker Ape School, which serves as an outlet for his often-unconventional view of song writing. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Essentially combining all the sounds of outfits he's participated in over the years, Junior Violence has a kaleidoscope approach, each track finding new patterns and textures. If you were to make predictions based on the opening track “A New Low! It Sucks Itself!” you'd assume that the charged keys and sonic guitar work represents a loud, thundering disc. Not quite the case, as the second song “Marijuana's On The Phone” find a more futuristic tone with a nearly funk background.

Even though he plugs keys and synth in everywhere here, there's still plenty of guitar driven pop songs like “You Don't Know You Don't Know,” which is armed with a large riff. He expands further on this notion with “Cocaine & Guns ASAP,” which hosts a firm post-punk vibe running through it. “Dirty Money” brings you back to '80s New Wave and goes directly into the ambient, atmospheric “Beneficiary (Don't Blame Me),” one of the most serene moments of the disc. That serenity spills over to the end of the album with "Weak In The Teeth" and "Piss It Away."

Junior Violence is undoubtedly a very unusual disc. Johnson has birthed an experimental, artistic, and often spacey vision of his songwriting prowess. The only truly straightforward song here is “Ready For Duty;” on all the other cuts, the ever-changing vocal style, fuzzy guitars, and eccentric synth work are really in a league all their own. The only outfit I can think who even remotely sound like this is Of Montreal, and that's only in fleeting moments. This is a must for the indie rock fan.

Rating: A

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