Let’s face it: Blink-182 has kept us waiting longer than Godot. Since their fanfare-heralded self-titled album dropped in 2003, longtime fans have clamored ravenously for new music from the pop-punk trio, most of whom would more than likely sell their soul for even a thirty-second snippet of new material. Luckily for us, we have Junior Battles to remind us of Blink’s glory days while proving that a young-gun group’s debut can hold its own in a heavyweight match in a summer battle of pop-punk mainstays vying for bragging rights and album sales.
Junior Battles doesn’t waste time getting to the point on Idle Ages opener “Seventeen,” unleashing a flurry of blistering emotions in the way of adrenaline-riddled vocals from nearly all of the band members and Sam Sutherland’s driving guitar riffs. “Twenty Five” takes the same tenacity that fuels “Seventeen” and spins it on its axis, going for a darker tone that sounds genuinely brooding, but still lighthearted enough to sing along with on the way to the beach, especially with a simple yet hook-laden chorus.
The band is at odds with its own feelings of growing up but wanting to stay young, an internal conflict that translates smoothly into some of the most relatable lyrics of the year. “Nostalgic at 23” is scathingly mid-tempo and showcases some slick beats from Joel Dickau, and is rife with youthful but mature growing pains. Idle Ages plays like something Blink-182 could have recorded early in their discography, but balance their pop-punk ethos with indie influences. “Birthdayparties vs. Punkroutine” is a moody guitar-driven track that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tiger’s Jaw album, and “Send the Pilots Away” sounds like a homage to 90’s emo bands, but with the band’s own unique take on the genre.
Idle Ages doesn’t flow with too much rhyme or reason in tone, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Junior Battles are at their best when they drop all pretenses and play straightforward pop-punk jams. “Passing Out” has some nifty gang vocals and a melody that slides itself comfortably into the listener’s head for hours on end, and “With Honors” is a throwback to the genre’s heyday in the early part of the 2000’s. The band is adept at drawing out nostalgia and emotions from listeners, both with honest, raw vocals meshing with in-your-face instrumentation and sincere personal lyrics that read like an open journal to the world.
So while the young band is still going through some musical growing pains as well, this energetic debut is a reminder of pop-punk’s roots, and should keep fans more than satisfied as a holdover to some of the bigger name albums to drop over the course of the summer.