It’s been just three years since Melbourne’s own Bad Juju came out the gate swinging with countless energetic live shows supporting the likes of Mayday Parade, Trophy Eyes, and Dream On Dreamer, just to name a few. The release of their debut EP Hidden Desire quickly caught the attention of Triple J which has had their mature brand of alternative rock receiving regular airtime. Like many bands today, their sound inspires nostalgia with their early 90’s emo and grunge flavour, with hook driven melodies that can’t keep your hands from slapping the shit out of your steering wheel as you make that daily commute home from your boring day job.
Sometimes, expectations don’t always meet reality. In music, the most frequent disappointment is the “sophomore slump”; the phenomena whereby a young band releases an incredible debut but then falls short of matching it with a subsequent release.
This hasn’t been the case with Bad Juju though, as their sophomore EP You’re Not Alone can best be described as alternative rock mastery. Seven hard-hitting anthems that from start to finish have elements of contemporary scene classics. The melodically charged but not rushed song structure of Sunny Day Real Estate, the grunge and exasperation of The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me, and the expansive choruses of early Green Day.
All of these elements are accentuated by the chiming of Abe Miller and Armarin Saengsri’s calculated guitar-work. The lyrics are still delivered with such earnest truth by vocalist Russell Holland that they demand you genuinely believe them, like every artist should. The new addition of bassist Matt John and Drue Herring on drums also brought a lot to these new tracks. The bass is really thick and heavy, and Drue’s pounding drums are extremely noteworthy.
Returning to producer Callan Orr at Avalanche Studios ensured quality mixing again and I feel he gave Bad Juju a little bit more body and more layering this time. He did a really great job pulling this record together and I think the band sounds fantastic on some of the more subdued moments too.
I adored both “Picture Us” and “Say It”, where you catch just a little bit of the hypnotic strings hanging in the background of the verses. This gave off a shoegaze colouring, releasing a pretty tone but with feelings of sadness. So there are moments on the EP where things are kind of tender but simultaneously many spots of real extremity and emotive imagery.
Lyrically the juxtaposition between the EP’s two heaviest hitting tracks, “Sirens” and “Watch Me Fall”, addresses the difference between addiction and perseverance. Both these tracks come flying at you from beginning to end, which I loved. Particularly around the 2:20 mark of “Watch Me Fall” when the track’s suffocating emotion fully peaks before closing. Out of all the moments throughout the EP, its final minutes are what hit me in the feels the most. “I know you meant it when we said forever, but we grew and you changed and I don’t regret it.” UGGHHH.
Since Bad Juju’s inception they have always aimed at bringing mental health awareness to the forefront of their songs. While not every track leaves you with a feeling of hope, this EP is a journey, so the entirety of it does. Like many readers and listeners, I myself have struggled with mental health issues and addiction throughout different periods of my life and this EP resonated deeply with experiences and emotions I know all too well. I came away after listening to “You’re Not Alone” with a positive outlook and I believe that’s the impact that Bad Juju will continue to offer their fan base.
These are all extremely talented artists who have a bright future ahead of them, so long as they continue to develop their art like they have been and avoid the trappings of becoming predictable. These tracks accurately portray feelings of loss, despair, and shame, but the overall message it leaves people with is that no matter how deep you may sink and no matter how alone you may feel, there is always a helping hand available to pull you up.
Well rounded EP that delivers solid punches on all fronts. They successfully avoided the “sophomore slump”.
Would love to hear more shoegaze influence but that’s just me.