Junior Boys are an uncommonly patient group. In general, critics are, too. It’s part of the job description, though there are plenty of good critics who aren’t. The point here is that if you want to see criticism get worked up over something, and if you want that thing to be relatively obscure and beyond accusations of hype, you might do well to follow the press coverage of Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus. Equal parts pop (in manifold forms), house and romantic defeat, their music sounds incredibly wrought and carefully arranged without ever getting saturated or overcooked. Mark “k-punk” Fisher probably came closest to nailing their mood with the coinage “modernist MOR.” Many reviews of Last Exit and So This Is Goodbye contained a clause where the writer expressed hope that these Canadians might someday gain a larger fanbase. But neither the folded-and-tucked 2-step of their debut nor the cleaner, unfussy craftsmanship of Goodbye could bridge the gap between critical and questionable popularity. And so it’s time for yours truly to join the ranks of the ignored: It seems only right for a band this talented and original to get bigger, and the desire waxes even larger after living with Begone Dull Care longer than I legally should have.
In terms of style, Junior Boys have stuck with the same basic sounds and structures heard on So This Is Goodbye, yet, curiously enough, the album rarely feels as if the Greenspan and Didemus are treading water. This go-around does lack the face-sucking gravity of "In the Morning" to serve as a point of access, but the best way to experience Junior Boys’ music has always been total submission. The sturdiness and (ahem) care of the production eventually betray the ego-dissolution professed in the lyrics and in Greenspan’s unwaveringly breathy delivery.
The source of So This Is Goodbye‘s staying power, for me at least, was the gradual shifting of focus away from “In the Morning” and towards the Frank Sinatra leitmotif that’s explicitly stated with the cover of "When No One Cares," whose lyrics and mood seed various other tracks. After a dozen listens, Begone Dull Care appears to lack this sort of thematic rhizome, though the album’s rife with references to film, from the album title to the ‘scens’ its lyrics endlessly circle (“If I forgot the lines, is it easy enough to fake it? / Or do you need a moment to re-memorize?”). One click shy of the full-on modernist MOR of its predecessor, Begone actually inches towards the dancefloor rather than the bandstand on tracks like "Work," but the effect is no less alienated or resigned.
Ultimately, the nagging feeling I get when listening to Begone Dull Care, though, is that I can’t quite digest it and begin the downcycle toward the next infatuation. This is what happened to me with some of last year’s critical successes. The Junior Boys are engineered against burnout, both in the barren relatability of the lyrics and the mighty punch of the bass drum.