Desperate Journalist come of age with their most powerful and refined music to date on new album ‘Grow Up’.
We, at Backseat Mafia, have often professed our love for Desperate Journalist. I thought I’d better state that straight away. You may think this means that this review will be biased – based on a history of adoration – but you’d be wrong to think that they’d get an easy ride from us. Far from it – it just means our expectations of their sophomore album are sky high.
‘Grow Up’ (released on 24 March 2017 via Fierce Panda Records) is the follow-up to Desperate Journalist’s ‘Good Luck’ EP from last year, which demonstrated a development from their eponymous debut album from 2015. The North London four-piece are showing another progression with this record. In the words of frontwoman Jo Bevan – with Simon Drowner (bass), Rob Hardy (guitar) and Caz Hellbent (drums) – “The album is, in fact, about growing up – the title came about as half a joke based on the strong emotions therein but it fits thematically due to the fact that each song is about figuring out what being an adult is supposed to mean. The cover image is a photo of me at the start of my (ongoing) phase of teenage angst so it seemed appropriate. I’m still not 100% sure what I’m supposed to be doing with myself now I’m over the age when it’s considered excusable to be an emotional romantic nightmare and all the songs are borne of that anxiety. I don’t have a LiveJournal any more so here’s my heart and brain broadcasting live to anyone who’d care to listen.”
‘Hollow’ is an epic opener to the album, at nearly 6 minutes long, and works as a clear statement of intent for the rest of the album. The verses are delicate and brooding while the choruses are thunderous. I didn’t think it would be possible, but Bevan’s vocals sound even stronger on this record – shifting from soft to strident in a single breath. In second single ‘Resolution’ the spiralling layers of sound combine with the soaring vocals to reflect the spinning emotions. From the sparkling beginning of synth sounds, that continue to shimmer when the riff kicks in, to Hellbent’s tapping drums keeping the beat like a ticking clock the track winds up perfectly to each countdown chorus – “Five, four, three, two, one and it’s over”.
‘Be Kind’ sees Bevan reflecting on a dysfunctional relationship – “I want to be kind, but when it comes I am blinded to you” – with stripped back verses and fierce choruses. ‘All Over’ is deliciously rhythmic with an insistent bassline and fizzing drums. ‘Purple’ is beautifully evocative and dramatic while, in contrast, next track ‘Why Are You So Boring’ is uplifting – with cutting lyrics to provide a twisted grin and what would appear to be an obvious choice for a live favourite.
‘Lacking In Your Love’ stands out with Bevan’s vocals soaring and then shifting to Bjork-esque breathiness and growls over a fantastic riff. ‘Your Genius’ is another favourite, with a real R.E.M style jangle that just makes me want to listen to it on repeat.
The last three tracks on the album perfectly demonstrate the shifts between light and shade. ’I Try Not To’ again returns to Bevan’s powerful vocals above a dramatic and epic refrain. ‘Oh Nina’ is a breezier offering, with a summery sound reminiscent of The Sundays but with a crashing finale. The closing track, ‘Radiating’, is piano-based and stripped-back and is a beautiful ballad on a disintegrating relationship – “I’ll just keep radiating, as your interest’s fading”. It’s an unexpected moment from a band that never fail to surprise and impress.
Their debut album was a stunning slice of shimmering indie, but on ‘Grow Up’ Desperate Journalist have added a structure and depth to their sound that I didn’t think was possible. They continue to provide the perfect blend of life-affirming and heartbreaking melodies but with a new maturity. They’ve grown up and exceeded our expectations.