Urban Junior – Urban et Orbi LP

Urban Junior
Urban et Orbi LP
(Voodoo Rhythm Records)
It doesn’t seem like this should be true on paper but, in the fourteen cuts which comprise Urban et Orbi, Urban Junior shows those listeners who come upon the album the future of pop. That might seem like a bold statement, but it’s true; throughout this album, Urban Junior intermingles electro clash, punk, something which sounds like indie or garage rock and (somehow) underground hip hop with the kind of impunity which only comes when one is programming music on a laptop in a college dorm room, and then has the audacity to leave the mess on the floor for listeners to examine and then clean up. Critics could effortlessly call the album self-indulgent, but those who are looking for something to be the new anthem like “United States of Whatever” was twenty years ago will have found a sure thing; there are certainly flaws in it, but Urban et Orbi is hypnotic in its bold sense of individuality.

As good as it proves to be, Urban et Orbi certainly doesn’t start out that way. After needle catches groove on the A-side of the album, “Today” opens the running with a very rigid and mechanical beat coupled with an equally thin and stiff bass part which can absolutely be called driving – but is so tight that it’s not particularly accessible right off, the way it plays, and its brevity (“Today” clocks in at just over three minutes – with the opening radio sample included) leaves listeners dizzy in just the wrong way. Happily though, the running improves dramatically after “Today” closes and “Big Ego” follows it, earnestly. There, a dense and jarring synth part fills the mix next to a clipping, digital beat, and the movement feels more forward-facing, in spite of that. Junior sort of name checks locations and people (see “United States of Idiots” and “United Kingdom of Assholes”) throughout the cut and, while the completely flat, two-dimensional mix will make almost anyone who hears it wish for a “full band” mix of the song to appear at some point, the sudden shift in structure which comes with the appearance of “Every Day Can Get You Down” (which features a thinner mix and a far more nasal-sounding synth, but still feels fresh and airy) comes across really brightly and really helps the A-side of the album fall into rhythm. After that, the fairly soulful synths that pilot “Badabing” will hold listeners entranced and, when the bass falls in, the results feel revelatory. It’s a shame that there aren’t any actual vocals on the track because, if there were, “Badabing” feels like it would be a sure hit.

After “Badabing” plays out, “Streets of Your Town” locks into a slightly more industrial tone to great effect and really sees all the tumblers align for Urban Junior. “Isolation” keeps “Streets of Your Town”’s afloat with an only slightly less intelligible lyric sheet in place before “Normal” remedies that problem as it also closes the side. There, Urban Junior finds the hit potential which narrowly evaded the album previously and hits the proverbial jackpot as the drums and guitar line interlock perfectly and help listeners forget that the production on the song is pretty thin. The rhythm on the cut is absolutely infectious and will have those who hear it actively barking the song’s “Back to normal” refrain before it runs out, after just a minute and a half. The power of that song coupled with the fact that it cuts out as fast as it does will have listeners rushing to flip the record over and renew the play before the song’s energy has a chance to fade.

…And, as soon as the B-side begins, the bouncing bass line which propels “Gotta Lotta Love” will take listeners right back to the peak energy levels that the A-side of the album reached. There, the raucous spirit of “the song (coupled with the “I’m ready” refrain which opens it) functions as the gate through which listeners will find every reason to rush. Keyboards keep the song afloat beautifully, and the closing lyrical punctuation (“…To give”) will have listeners feeling ready for more – and because it did indeed work so well, “Whatever” follows exactly the same structure to follow up.

While “Alive” feels like just far too much of a repetitive and “okay” thing that listeners may find themselves happy to see go after its three-minute running and the “everything is clipping” sound of “Friend” is just aggravating, “C.C.S.” sees Urban Junior recover from the B-side’s backslide in quality with a pretty ominous riff, and “Anti-Social Media” actually tests a gothic-electronic tone and form that is a particular album highlight before Urban Junior baits listeners again with an almost garage rock-sounding turn to close the album. The power with which that cut is delivered is absolutely fantastic and, by the time the song ends, listeners will know they’ll have been won by Urban Junior and will be obliged to run front-to-back with the album again; in fact, several times over.

Needless to say, that Urban et Orbi was a success goes without saying. The quality of the cuts will hold listeners tightly and leave them wondering how long they might have to wait for more music. So early in Urban Junior’s career, the answer to that question is impossible to predict – but listeners will be waiting excitedly to see what growth a follow-up might feature. [Bill Adams]


Urban et Orbi is out now. Buy it here, directly through Voodoo Rhythm Records.

Bill Adams is Editor-in-Chief of Ground Control Mag.