James Beastly. The man, the myth, the legend. One listen through the blistering punk/alternative/slacker/??? vibes of his latest album, Junk Values, and you’ll be thinking the same thing. He’s self-described as “too indie to be punk and too punk to be indie” and we couldn’t have said the words better ourselves. Junk Values is just that eclectic. Either way, James’ iconic personality and unique tastes truly shine through on this collection of ten, genre-defying songs.
James evokes wild punkers like WAVVES and FIDLAR (are both of those bands capitalized? Maybe we should start capitalizing JAMES BEASTLY) on album opener “The Arc of Youth.” Proco Rat (TM) guitar tones lay underneath cosmic and psychedelic guitar leads while James takes center stage with his unhinged but still-digestible delivery. This is punk rock for the ages, and James nails the aggressive vibes here perfectly, but it’s just one step on the journey you’re embarking on by listening to Junk Values.
Track two (and another album highlight) “Tragedy Dolls” takes a bit more subdued of an approach. With it’s mid-90s slacker feel and compelling melodies, this one still feels like a punk wrote it, but a punk who yearns for catchy hooks and smart song structure. Doesn’t make sense? It doesn’t have to. James Beastly doesn’t make sense (and he doesn’t have to). Evidently, there is a cover photo in the works for “Dolls” featuring Beastly in a red fox mask holding a bouquet of liquor store flowers with an Albert Camus t-shirt on… Do I really need to explain more? The guy is an enigma and so is his music.
James was smart to frontload Junk Values with strong songs, and he continues that trend with song three (and my personal, “Dark Horse Dreams.” The intro here sounds like an early aughts emo band crunching into the first guitar chords of their packed-to-the-brim basement show. Beastly quickly turns it around into a beautifully catchy verse – the guitar leads that close this one out are one of my favorite moments on the album and are certainly worth a listen (or three).
Title track “Junk Values” follows in the footsteps of “Tragedy Dolls” – with it’s slacker-esque sound, jangly guitars, and soaring synthstring accompaniment, this one is just as much Gin Blossoms as it is Dinosaur Jr. Follow up track, “Vacant Games” feels like the perfect mix of punk and slacker – with it’s use of blistering punk tempos, those gauzy string textures, and a jangling acoustic guitar backbone. When you hear the shimmer of a tambourine kick in, you realize just how good James is at layering his songs to feel gigantic in an utterly intriguing way.
Junk Values is out now. Check it out on your favorite streaming service, or, enjoy the video for “The Arc Of Youth” below.