Circulation (Light Organ)
Vocalist Charlie Kerr, guitarist Oliver Mann, bassist Chris McClelland, and drummer Graham Serl combined their skills under the name JPNSGRLS (pronounced “Japanese girls”) in 2010. Before long, they found themselves signed to burgeoning pop-rock label Light Organ and dropped their first release, The Sharkweek EP, in 2013. Subsequently, the quartet went into the studio with producer Steve Bays (Hot Hot Heat, Mounties) and managed to record its debut full-length in only seven days. Circulation has a live-off-the-floor feel conducive to the band’s indie- and garage-informed pop-punk leanings, given that the propulsive rhythm section was recorded sans click track. Meanwhile, the enthusiasm of Kerr and dynamic six-string stylings of Mann sit at the forefront of the album.
Under the mature guiding hand of Bays, and mastered by noted engineer Greg Calbi (Tame Impala, MGMT), each song sounds fresh and clean, ready for radio. However, as an album, Circulation comes off a little inconsistent and underdeveloped.
For the most part, Kerr delivers his lyrics, laced with topical frustration and pop-culture references, in that half-sung/half-screamed tone typical of the pop-punk genre, but he occasionally stretches his voice into a falsetto. This lends a certain cabaret drama to the infectious “Tiger”, yet makes “Oh No Echoes” sound like an aborted demo by the Darkness, closing the album on a sour note. The momentum gained by the first few hard-hitting tracks peters out slowly over the record. In general, JPNSGRLS’ songwriting struggles to overcome their ’90s-alternative influences. Still, hooks abound, leaving one thinking that there’s still a lot of puppy in these boys, so the future holds promise.