sound in the dark
Ten years ago a Danish dance-pop band broke into the mainstream with their debut single. A stuttering verse and catchy chorus repeated over a simple drum beat and synth-y keyboard was hardly new territory, but somewhere in between its brazenly cheesy pomp and the promise that “all of your troubles are dead and gone” was what makes the best pop music stick out: FUN.
Move Your Feet was less the introduction of Junior Senior to the world and more our introduction to them. Spring had arrived and brought the sun with it. It stayed for the summer and so did Move Your Feet – it didn’t drop out of the Top 10 for 10 weeks. Unfortunately for Junior Senior, this unexpected popularity didn’t help their album D-D-Don’t Stop The Beat from dropping out the album charts entirely after just 3 weeks. This may be entirely down to the fact that it was pretty uninspiring and at times, downright annoying. So Move Your Feet was a success, D-D-Don’t Stop The Beat wasn’t, and Junior Senior were forgotten after just one summer, one pop hit that narrowly missed the top spot* and one incredible pixellated squirrel video.
*to R Kelly’s Ignition – Remix, a song which includes the lyrics “We got fellas to my left/Honeys on my right”, so is presumably set in a school disco or a hoedown.
So in 2005 when they released their second album, Hey Hey My My Yo Yo, they were surely bound to fly into the charts again. Except it wasn’t released in the UK. It wasn’t even released in America or Australia until 2007. It passed me and nearly everyone else by completely. Then in March 2008 I recalled their existence and thought the thought spared almost entirely for one-hit-wonders and daytime TV presenters: “Whatever happened to them?”. This led to a risky gamble: I purchased an import copy, despite not having heard anything from it and not liking their first album. It could have been disastrous.
Lucky for me then that it has since turned out to be one of the best gambles I’ve ever made on a piece of music. Hey Hey My My Yo Yo is now almost engraved on my brain. I can’t even remember the first time I listened to it or how long it took to click. So I can’t say that you’ll love it immediately, but I can say that even after what must be hundreds of listens, I’m still not even remotely tired of it.
If pop music isn’t your thing, you’ll hate this album. It’s a dance-pop album I rate among my favourites, alongside Alive 2007 and Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (although each are obviously completely different in terms of style and execution.) The intro track is a literal welcome – 43 seconds of clapping and band members saying “Hello” before melting straight into Hip Hop A Lula - a Big Bang explosion of song, expanding, contracting and throwing musical matter in every direction. It’s a statement of what’s to come and how fully explored the songs are. There’s little breathing room in this album, any pauses lasting less than a second and being so integral to the structure of the song that they offer no time to relax at all. It’s the most energetic, exciting kind of pop that can be made – think The Go! Team but sunnier.
That’s not to say it’s exhausting – in fact, the record pulls you in and swings and dances with you, not in spite of you. Fun is the most important aspect of pop music, and the one that made Move Your Feet so popular. Fun is the musical core throughout the record, available in an abundance that makes anything on Junior Senior’s debut album seem like it was made by someone else. Whether it’s the backing vocals from the female half of B-52′s (Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson) on Take My Time; the key change on No No No’s; or the strings on the campy Ur A Girl, with its Almost-Famous-plot lyrics, there’s something here for any pop fan.
The other fundamentals of pop music – songs about love; lyrics which sound insightful but are ultimately meaningless – are present and correct and done in a way that’ll have you singing along anyway. Who could resist lyrics such as “Tryin’ to make some sense/In a world that has no ends”, “…you’re about to plan/To throw my kiss in the garbage can” or “Take me down to the parallel city/Where the music’s loud and the boys are pretty”?
One of the standout tracks for me is I Like Music (W.O.S.B.), which you can listen to below. It’s one of the most enjoyable, well structured, white-boy-danceable pop songs in living memory. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve embarrassed
myself others by dancing jerking my limbs around in the kitchen to this.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, I highly recommend this album. You can listen to the whole album on Spotify, or if you’re a gambling sort as well, you can download it from iTunes, import from Amazon or ask your local independent stockist to try and locate a copy for you. As much as I’d like to say you should buy it from an indie record store I’ve sadly never seen a copy of it on sale anywhere, even when HMV was still thinking “I wonder how quickly we can destroy a franchise?” so unfortunately the tax-dodgers may be your only option. Another sad note is that after making this beautiful behemoth of a record, they decided to split up. So there will be no more handclaps, key changes or genre-mashing pop hits produced by the Danish duo.
But I want to end on a more appropriate, positive note. Both Junior (Jesper Mortensen) and Senior (Jeppe Laursen) are pursuing exciting solo careers.
Mortensen started new band MAKE OUT, a decidedly rockier, angrier sound with Charlotte Hatherley sound-alike Leah Hennessey:
Laursen meanwhile is responsible for co-authoring this little number which you may have heard of:
Their new directions are not exactly the bright, shiny euro-pop I’ve adored and raved about above, but Junior and Senior are still proving they know how to make you move your feet, but never so much as on Hey Hey My My Yo Yo.