EP Review: Juice Webster’s ‘More Than Reaction’ is a cinematic, chilling and beautiful masterpiece

The Breakdown

This is a beautiful and ethereal EP - filled with a sense of anxiety, sorrow and loss yet leavened by the knowledge of hope in personal relations.
Independent 9.2

Juice Webster‘s spectacular new EP ‘More Than Reaction’ was born during the early months of January 2020 when flames engulfed Australia, serving as a prelude to the COVID lockdown months later – a time that was fraught and unnerving. Elements of the uncertainty and anxiety of this time can be detected, like the indelible smell of wood smoke, throughout the EP.

Webster says of the EP:

More Than Reaction’ as a whole is about feeling sort of belittled and thrashed about by my own existence. It took me a while to try and find a common thread between the subject matter of these songs, as I didn’t write them with the intention of them belonging to the same body of work. But when I was thinking about the songs individually, I found that in their own ways, each song was kind of examining or zero-ing in on a different way in which I felt small and at the mercy of my surroundings. At the time when writing these songs I was very much feeling like I was constantly just reacting to things that were happening around me and I found myself wondering who I would be if there wasn’t anything to react to.

This deeply personal EP therefore reflects common themes of confidence, self-awareness and our ability to place ourselves in the world around us.

With a soft folk sensibility, opening track ‘Stupid Girl’ has sparse instrumentation and raw, exposed emotions delivered through Webster’s glorious vocals. The topic is incredibly prescient given the horrific levels of misogyny that continue to be faced by women, which has been thrown into sharp relief at the moment in Australia:

This song is the oldest song on the EP; I wrote it in 2018. When I was in high school, we had assemblies dedicated to giving us tips on how to feel and be safer when we were out at night, but it was becoming clearer and clearer, with each story in the news, that despite doing all the things we’re taught to do from such a young age, we’re stupid for thinking it’ll make any difference.

The depressing realities of anxiety burn clear in the lyrics:

Practise fake calling my dad,
So it will look like there’s somebody tough
Waiting for me to walk in the door,
After the sun has gone down,
And I set on home
Up a street that’s familiar to me,
Past that big group of figures
That force my gaze downwards
‘Til I can’t see past my feet.

The accompanying video is a beautifully shot performance by Webster – the choreography encapsulating the feeling and and emotions of the track:

‘Let the Dog Out’ shifts into more layered instrumentation and a rockier indie edge. The smoky thread of anxiety flows on – so beautifully expressed often by what is not said:

I get up early and I let the dog out and I feel it coming, and I feel it coming and I feel it coming

Webster uses repetition to create and build up a rhythm and a sense of foreboding that is tangible and chilling. This is an epic and mesmerising track.

‘Believer’ strips back to a gently picking guitar and Webster’s voice is is clear and focussed as she displays her uncertainty about the future and loss of faculties – I am fearful of the day when all I am escapes my brain, and all I’ll have is others words – believer – displaying a heartbreaking and raw poignancy.

‘Wanna Be Held’ shakes free of this sadness – both in pace and lyrical content. While fears and anxieties still prevail, there is hope in connections with others – I feel small, can you hold me up and make me tall?

‘More Than Reaction’ ends with ‘I Don’t Mean To’ – a spark of hope again in personal connections delivered in a melancholy transfixing tone. Webster’s raw and personal exposition of the anxieties of the external world are tempered by the personal – she separates the two and apologises to her partner/lover/family for the intrusion – I don’t meant to put this over you.

This is a beautiful and ethereal EP – filled with a sense of anxiety, sorrow and loss yet leavened by the knowledge of hope in personal relations. Webster’s ultimate message is that there is a spark of hope and optimism in life that need not leave you burned and desolate.

You can download/stream ‘More Than Reaction’ here.

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