What initially strikes me with Human Rush, the debut EP from Oxford, UK’s Juniper Nights, is how reminiscent it is of early day Radiohead records Pablo Honey and The Bends, the albums released before they went hard into their experimental, more electronic phase and were still very guitar-rock oriented. The five songs on Human Rush employ a similar melodic framework, doused with moody, depressing tones and atmosphere, that Radiohead rode to unheralded success throughout the late 90s and into the 00s. That said, it would be easy to compare singer-guitarist James Gallagher to Thom Yorke…but I’m not gonna do it! Gallagher’s voice is more akin to that of Nick Drake: more airy, whereas Yorke delivers his vocals with more of a nasal quality. Comparisons aside, if you’re a musician from the UK with the last name Gallagher, you’re guaranteed to be successful right?
The first single off the EP is “Antidote,” a wise choice, as it is easily the most accessible track. It’s also the most Radiohead-sounding song on the EP, which will help lure in the casual listener. A soft drum shuffle by the man behind the kit, Tom Lindsay, makes way for a sombre interplay of acoustic and electric guitars courtesy of guitarist Zach Wilmott and Gallagher, who sings with the downtrodden gloom of a man who hasn’t seen the sun in weeks. The track also has my favourite lyric on the entire EP, “Take my voodoo doll and leave him under the running tap.” Juniper Nights have a bit more pep in their step on “All At Once” thanks to the punchy bass lines of Marty Melvin. It still smells like a Radiohead song, but you can begin to catch a whiff of Juniper Nights’ own fragrance in there.
The band introduces some keyboards on the atmospheric “Bloodflow,” a dreamy alt-rock tune that will hit the pleasure center for fans of The National and Beach House. Gallagher continues his doleful introspections with the pessimistic preamble, “For the first time in my life, I can’t see my future.”
“The Lighthouse” is the song that cemented my comparison to Nick Drake earlier, as it has a folk rock quality to it, at least until the 2:45 mark where, to my unexpected pleasure, it cranks up a notch. I adore the pace of this song. The most intricate song on the EP, “Lemonhead” is a lofty 6:46 and has tons of ups, downs and all arounds. Wilmott showcases some fantastic guitar work on this piece, full of effects, energy and euphoria; a fitting way to put an end to the EP.
The bands bio describes their sound in this manner: “Sombre moments make way for crushing aggression.” Quite frankly, herein lies my only criticism. I don’t hear the “crushing aggression.” There are hints of it in “Lemonhead,” maybe a little in “All At Once,” but I don’t think it’s enough to merit the tag. Incorporating more explosive moments, not unlike what Smashing Pumpkins were doing in the 90s, will do absolute wonders for Juniper Nights. They’re already flirting with the right recipe, now they merely have to take it to bed. Human Rush is due out February 2nd, 2018.
Written by Lee Ferguson
*edited by Kate Erickson