Music Reviews

Weekend Jinx

(Slumberland) Rating - 7/10

The Jesus & Mary Chain has always been the most obvious starting point when explaining the music of shoegaze trio Weekend – so obvious, in fact, that it feels a bit lazy even starting my review with the comparison. But you have to admit that the comparison in not only sound, but career trajectory, have been uncanny. Like Psychocandy before it, Mary Chain’s punishing, legendary debut, Weekend’s 2010 debut, Sports, was uncompromising in its dedication to coat nearly every hook and chorus with walls of terrifying distortion. There’s this almost perverse sense of wrongness that comes from uncovering simple, sweet melodies as they’re being violated by a firestorm of guitar noise, and while Psychocandy will always be the crown jewel in this department, Sports was easily one of the finest records to pull off this macabre sensation in recent years. Weekend’s spin on the sound may have been more about atmospherics than sounding like The Beach Boys in a blender, but their debut still offered plenty of hooks while taking a jackhammer to the eardrum.

But alas, much like their forebears, Weekend’s days as guitar-noise fetishists were shortly numbered. I guess it’s either a fear of becoming redundant or it just becomes boring creating painfully loud rock music all the time, but like many groups before them, Weekend have been pursuing the tried and true post-debut sound cleansing that the J&MC practically patented years ago. The band’s 2011 EP, Red, first hinted at this, offering a leaner, prettier take on the group’s sound. But while that EP was solid, it’s the gorgeous, detailed passages of Jinx that prove that Weekend have evidently made the right move.

And it was a good thing they pulled it off, too, because toning down the noise – the single most arresting aspect of their sound in the first place – was an incredibly risky move on their part. But for their matured sophomore album, Weekend play their transition as smartly and efficiently as possible, taking the often unappreciated aspects of Sports, like catchy melodies and haunting atmospherics, and bringing them out boldly into the forefront. They still manage to mix in scathing blasts of distortion throughout the record, as evidenced by raging, energetic tracks like July and Adelaide, but these are more efficiently intermingled with prettier elements like guitarist Kevin Johnson’s shimmering, Disintegration-esque guitar lines and singer Shaun Durkan’s vocals, which have evolved from a monotone groan to an emotional, romantic coo.  The band even commits to pure languid beauty in a few instances, especially on lush, atmospheric Sirens or the glittery Celebration, FL, but more often than not, the album's true shining moments come when both extremes are seamlessly blended together, as robust tracks like Obliette and Mirror best display the group’s newfound attention to detail.

Working out a new sound has definitely brought the group some clear advantages; Jinx contains some of the most well-crafted pop songs the group has ever made, including the terribly infectious It’s Alright, and their willingness to bring in some light will definitely bring in those who may have been turned off by Sports’ painful barrage of noise. But it all comes with a price, and that is unfortunately the price of losing some distinction. It’s hard enough to stand out in the post-punk crowd when everyone’s already trying to sound like Joy Division these days, and while Sports did have a tendency to drag at times, it undoubtedly helped the group stick out with not only it’s loudness but it’s raw delivery as well, giving the group more of a basement punk feel than that of a gloomy goth band. And while Jinx is an exceptionally crafted post-punk record that indeed floors many of their contemporaries, the band sounds more indebted to their influences than ever, and at times fits the post punk mold a little too closely. That, and the fact that the band still hasn’t fully figured out how to keep their songs from dragging, as nearly half the albums songs do not need to be half as long as they already are.

When all’s said and done, however, I believe that Jinx is probably the best way Weekend could have followed up their debut. After all, what other choice was really left for them? Get louder? Anyone who’s heard Sports knows that’s not an option. Make Sports again? Fair enough, but I highly doubt Weekend would be able to top themselves just by making noise rock again. With Jinx, however, we get to see a promising band push their sound outward and gracefully mature, even if it doesn’t always floor you as immediately as some of Sports’ loudest moment do.