One of the strangest things you learn as you get older is that no idea is a bad idea, it just needs to simmer for a longer time. Maybe a draft you left in a musty drawer is now ready to find its voice. Perhaps the half finished Locrian scale ditty that’s been swirling on your head is ready to be put on tape. And perhaps you have to stop hiding in the back of open mic night and read that litote-filled ramble you’re sure will entice the half-stoned patrons. Or get you banned from [POETRY EVENT NAME REDACTED] nights.
But what would spark the fire to get you, and yes, I mean you, to actually get to work in that hidden passion that you don’t fully devote yourself to? In the case of Junkbond, it was that world-wide push many felt when lockdowns started back in 2020.
An album spanning a quarter of a century, the eight songs that comprise Spring the locks range from expansive alt-country to intimate space-rock tinged. In the spirit of R.E.M., the Spring the locks clearly has two halves: side A is the straight shooting alt-country rock that peddles a vintage summer of ’96 aroma. Conversely, side B would go into a wider range of genres, which makes it the area for deep cuts.
With that separation in mind, the four tracks that make up (a very hypothetical side A) are energetic. ‘Wrong side of the line’ functions as a de rigueur album opener: flashy, wide in scope and with your daily serving of pent-up anger. The mood stays up for ‘Laughter Lines’, the catchier of the lot. A good song even if it disses geography (how dare you?). ‘Blessed or cursed’ is a spacey ballad; a welcome change of pace that mixes the ethereal with the mushy. ‘Incomplete’ seems to follow suit, but at brisker pace, even if it’s a longer runtime. It’s interesting how ‘Incomplete’ closes that cycle on an longing note. End of a chapter? A realisation?
The (very hypothetical side B) continues on a longing mood with ‘Gift horse mouth’, a track that still manages to break the monotony of a love song with country panache. ‘Brave face’ is a definite highlight for Spring the locks. A slow burning track, atmospheric to the brim, which once it’s done and dusted makes your age creep by, reminding you the best day truly are over and now it’s a series of recollections and anecdotes to impart to an audience that may or may not exist. And if they exist, will they listen?
‘In the wars’ takes me back to colder nights, aimlessly walking back from the city centre in anytown, UK. You try evading the late night boozehounds, the ROAR numpties, and the odd reveler still quoting Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech (you know they still exist). It’s a fight against the cold night, against the worst parts of humanities. Keep your head high, that trumpet celebrates you manage to walk to your destiny without fading into a fata morgana like old Mr. Eastwood.
‘Spring fever’ closes the album, a coda to the emotions, the highs and lows of a quarter of a century. I suspect it was the last song to be written, as the cadence of Simon Roberts‘ vocals indicate some exhaustion. Or relief. It depends on how you, the listener, see the autumn years of life. Perhaps not all is lost, and although things might take time, as long as they are completed, finished, then it was all worth it.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López