If you’re expecting some heavy-hitting punk rock on Jr. Juggernaut’s second full length album (and Paper + Plastick debut), “Wake”, then you should probably stop reading this and check out something else. “Wake” can certainly be heavy-hitting at times, but punk rock it is not. If you could imagine a band that plays a genre close to alt-country (à la Drag the River) meets 90’s alternative revival (think lots and lots of Cheap Girls), then Jr. Juggernaut wouldn’t be too far off from the end result.
With 11 tracks clocking in at just under 50 minutes, “Wake” treads familiar territory for more or less the entire run. The songs average 3 to 4 minutes in length, following a very standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-guitar solo-chorus-outro format. But hey, if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it, right? What “Wake” lacks in innovation, it makes up for in anthemic and sincere songwriting. Writing songs about having to work the night shift just to get by (“Night Shift), or the incredible sadness that military families have to deal with (“Give Me My Son”) aren’t as ambitious as they get, but the songs have an authenticity to them that will speak volumes to the average Joe. That doesn’t stop the band from getting existential from time-to-time. In “This Is Love” they sing “I believe in Jesus the same way I believe in ghosts. If you see ’em then you see ’em, if you don’t then you don’t.” Who knew that philosophy could be so blunt?
Vocalist / guitarist Mike Williamson’s vocals only help to bring the music to life. Falling somewhere between Jon Snodgrass, Ian Graham, and Josh Caterer, Williamson sings with a passion that can really only be described as “energetic apathy”. Best exemplified in mid-album track “Breath on Bone”, Williamson sings his heart out, all while still coming off as a regular blue-collar worker, and not some big rockstar. He may not appear to have a huge range, but his voice brings the music together: plenty of bands sing about being tired from their daily working lives, but with Jr. Juggernaut you really believe it.
“Wake” leaves me in a difficult place. On one hand, almost everything here has been done before by nearly every band to ever appear on Suburban Home Records, and the first few listens may be spent wondering why you’re not just listening to “Speaking in Cursive” or “You Can’t Live This Way”. On the other hand, once the songs hit you (working a 9 hour shift and/or not getting home until well after 2am helps to speed up the process), it begins to make a lot more sense why you kept “Wake” playing. Dealing with reality can be tough sometimes, and “Wake” helps to serve as a reminder that other people live in the same harsh realm as you.