Junior Boys | 09.09.06

Where the songs on their latest release, this year's So This Is Goodbye, feel remote in their crispness and austere beauty on the album, the Junior Boys' live show reveals their essential soulfulness.

 

Iota Club, Arlington, Va.

Canada has given us maple syrup, tasty bacon, and William Shatner, and now it's making us dance. I find this especially impressive in D.C., where the typical hipster refusal to do more than a vague twitch in response to a beat means that this city rarely moves. Yet, at a show that Junior Boys vocalist Jeremy Greenspan revealed was actually sponsored by the Canadian Embassy, locals of the greater metro region were moving, and although it might not have always looked good, it sure as hell felt good.

Montreal-based openers Ensemble—led by Olivier Alary and touring as a trio in support of their upcoming self-titled album—brought with them their distinctive experimental electro-infused low-fi pop. Overcoming sound difficulties early on in the set, their cover of UB40's "Food for Thought" was surprising and especially moving in its layering of sound and in the interplay of vocals. A quieter venue might have been more suitable for fully appreciating the nuances of Ensemble's movement between delicate quiet and a cocooning loud, but the show ended in screams, bells, and significant reverb—just how I like it.

It was Junior Boys, though, that produced the majority of muscle spasms. Appearing on stage in coordinated white blazers, black shirts, and black pants, they opened the show with the dreamy heartbreak of "So This Is Goodbye" followed by the earnest vocals and clapping beats of "The Equalizer." Technical difficulties would reappear in their set, delaying the start of "In the Morning," the infectious staccato beat synth treat of vocal popping and locking goodness that would garner the biggest crowd response of the night. This delay actually proved useful, sparking off a Canada quiz for the crowd in which Greenspan argued for the designation of Junior Boys' Hamilton, Ontario, hometown as the greatest city in all of Canada (my vote is Winnipeg), trick-questioned the crowd about the identity of their President (their Prime Minister is Stephen Harper), and declared Rush's "Tom Sawyer" the true Canadian national anthem (as opposed to the commonly held misconception of "O Canada.")

When first listening to Junior Boys' previous album, 2004's Last Exit, I kept waiting for the booming beats of house to attack and pound the songs into submission, but thankfully they never did. Instead, there was the tightly controlled, measured elegance of refined electro-pop. Their songs have the effect of being weaned off of sugar—at first the body craves being deprived of the stimulant, but after a while it comes to feel so much healthier without it—and everything else becomes too sweet. Where the songs on their latest release, this year's So This Is Goodbye, feel remote in their crispness and austere beauty on the album, the Junior Boys' live show reveals their essential soulfulness. The electronics manned by Matthew Didemus and the switch-hitting Greenspan moving between guitar and bass throughout the set further enhanced by the beat-making of their touring drummer, produced a visceral energy that demanded movement. Even with torn ligaments in my foot, I couldn't help bouncing in place.

Thank you, Canada.

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