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The Junior Varsity


Review by Gary Hill

OK, I don’t think anyone will ever use terms like “original” or “unique” to describe The Junior Varsity’s music. More than likely you’ll hear phrases like “high energy,” “fun” and “strong.” These guys have a killer alternative rock sound that’s sure to be a hit because it’s cut from the same cloth as a lot of the music that is played on the radio these days. What they lack in originality they make up for with a passion and sense of musicality that makes them one of the better practitioners of the genre. They may not be breaking any molds here, but they do it better than most.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 4 at

Track by Track Review
I Went Blind
A weird sort of chaotic noise type segment starts this off. When they drop in for the song proper, though, it’s a killer modern alternative rock grind. They drop it back to a rather retro toned, balladic mode for the verses. This song should be huge because it’s right in line with so much modern rock that you hear on the radio. Mind you, I did say “rock,” meaning the “real” music that’s out there. They do a nice job of alternating between harder rocking and mellower sounds.
The Sky!
This one has a bouncing sort of mellower approach with that cool, slightly weird, alternative rock sound that almost touches on emo. They move it through a harder rocking jam, and then drop it back to another more sedate segment. This wanders through variants and reiterations of the central musical themes to create a cohesive and dramatic track.
Here we get something that’s even more mellow. This has a bit of a playful feel to it. After a couple lines of lyrics they pull it up a bit with some harder rocking, more energized sounds, but the general song format hasn’t really changed much. This is one of the more effective cuts on the disc. It’s cohesiveness makes it more catchy, but it does wander the closest to true emo.
St. Louis
This is a bit of a change of pace. It’s bouncy and a bit strange, but also pretty darn cool. It’s one of the more unique tracks on show here and is a bit harder to pigeonhole than anything else. A little weird, this is also fun.
The Greatest
With a tentative introduction, this feels like it’s about to explode into a powerhouse jam. Instead they drop it back to a mellower phase for the verse. It powers up later for a short section of vocals, but they move it back to the more stripped down approach as they continue forward. This is another hard-edged slab of alternative rock that’s quite solid. In fact, this might be my favorite tune on the disc. The harder edged jam later, with its metallic tendencies is really tasty. So is the soaring instrumental section. Actually I’d have to say that this probably the most dynamic and diverse piece of music on show here, running through a number of cool segments.
The Importance of Being Important
From sublime to pedestrian, this ballad-like cut is not only unoriginal, but also borders on inept in its awkward approach. I’m sure they think it’s artistic, but I’d have to consider it clumsy. This is without question the “skip” track of the disc. It’s a shame, too, because I love the title. The harder rocking section does manage to elevate it a bit, but it’s a little too little a little too late.
Memory Made Easy
What a study in contrasts. Here they take us in the course of three tracks through the killer rocker, the lame song and now the incredibly beautiful balladic instrumental piece. This is another highlight of the CD. The acoustic guitar melody that makes this one up is nothing short of beautiful. The strings and other elements that play over the arrangement manage to do the feat that is always tough – they convey emotion and passion without taking it into the realm of “over the top.” What a great track and a great way to redeem themselves. This is one of the most original pieces of music on show here.
Try to Define
They bring us back to the real world with this cut. It’s another slab of the group’s brand of alternative pop rock. While it’s not all that unique, it is good. Besides, pretty much anything would pale in comparison to “Memory Made Easy.”
The title track brings in a major change of pace with a bouncing, jazzy jam that has a lot of elements that make one think of the horn oriented sounds of the 1970’s. This is another highlight of the disc as it manages to combine the modern alternative rock textures with these older sounds and still feel coherent. The vocal arrangement on this one, as is the case with the music, is top notch and among the best of the whole album.
Starting as a pretty ballad, this one works its way back out to more of the group’s trademark sound. The harder rocking mode later is among the best of its type on show, and actually this cut is one of the better ones on the disc. It’s just that by this point this sound is wearing rather thin
The start this one off almost bluesy. The song proper comes in and brings in a new texture. While not varying greatly from the overall texture of the rest of the disc, this track brings an approach that feels rather fresh. That serves to make this one of the better cuts on show here. I particularly enjoy the slower, more contemplative segments of this piece.

Under The Radar
A rather noisy jam, this one represents a different flavor of the group’s favorite musical stew. It’s actually one of the more effective songs they present us with, but by now the sense of sameness is weighing too heavy to really appreciate it. Taken by itself this is a killer number, but in the context of the whole CD, I just found myself wanting it to be over.
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