Finding a great post-punk rock album these days is going the way of the Black Rhino – an endangered species that is nearing extinction. While there have been plenty of records that crossed this great plain, the truly great ones – like Savages’ Adore Life and Preoccupations’ Viet Cong – are difficult to find. So when one is spotted, it is a cause for celebration. Such is the case with Desperate Journalist‘s sophomore long-player, Grow Up.
Comprised of eleven songs, Grow Up is a remarkable output by a young band that is still growing. But on the opener, “Hollow”, the North London quartet demonstrate a maturity and mastery well beyond their early twenties. The song is, in one word, epic. Tracking in at just under six minutes, the song twists and turns on multiple occasions. Frontwoman Jo Bevan’s vocals at first effortlessly glide through the stark bass, the pummeling drum line, and the crystalline guitar. The song then escalates into a category-five hurricane, as all the elements surge into a fierce storm before subsiding and then swelling again. The song’s calmness and ferocity brilliantly mirrors Bevan’s lyrics about vulnerability, isolation, and coercion.
“Resolution” bellows of the ’70s. Elements of early U2, who started as a punk band, echo throughout. Bevan, though, channels Pat Benatar in sound and spirit, informing us that time is too short to dwell on things. “All Over”, similarly, is bold and fiery, and it is even more U2 at its core. Rob Hardy’s delayed guitar and Simon Drowner’s throbbing bass line are, respectively, like The Edge and Adam Clayton. Caz Hellbent’s hammering drumming, though, is more akin to Preoccupations’ Mike Wallace, who is one of the great drummers of his generation.
An exhilarating quality permeates across “Why Are You So Boring?” despite Bevan’s hold-nothing-back attack on possibly a former partner or friend. Conversely, “Lacking In Your Love” is a brooding number that is simply mesmerizing and akin to the stark brilliance of Disintegration-era The Cure. “I Try Not To”, meanwhile, is arguably the album’s most anthemic number track and lyrical highlight, as Bevan examines her place in the world. The song’s climax is memorable, as each element sears and blisters into a euphoric torrent of sound. Hearing this live – and hopefully extended – would be an unforgettable experience.
Desperate Journalist do draw upon their non-punk beginnings. “Be Kind” drips with Paramore’s melodic alt-rock – that is, a song that simultaneously shimmers and rocks. The harrowing “Purple” is a dark, eerie number, as the instrumentation is significantly scaled back and Bevan’s voice is restrained. Her storytelling on the track is impeccable, offering a dark fairy tale of a woman who is lost, imprisoned, or both. The finale, “Radiating”, simply has Bevan singing at the piano. It is an unexpected but gorgeous conclusion to an album that for nearly forty minutes just fired one mind-blowing salvo after another.
And during these moments, Grow Up is a reminder that post-punk can be fierce, intense, and unrelenting in its approach without sacrificing the thoughtfulness in each song’s message. It recalls a time when the genre represented the angst, suffering, and hopes of a generation while taking on the establishment and its entrenched values. When all these things come together, only one thing can occur – recognizing that Desperate Journalist are not just one of post-punk’s great bands but one of indie’s great outfits, and Grow Up is their calling card.
Desperate Journalist are Jo Bevan (vocals), Simon Drowner (bass), Rob Hardy (guitar), and Caz Hellbent (drums).
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