For me, September 2016 has been a great month for new music! A big part of that has to do with the fact that Just in Case dropped a new full-length titled Prior Knowledge that will slap the stew outta anyone interested in high-energy melodic punk. I had a chance to chat on the phone with singer Adam Bucciarelli a bit before the release. During the course of that conversation, I mentioned that I still enjoy the band’s previous EP titled Better Late than Never. After graciously thanking me for the kind words, Adam furthered his response by saying, “If you like that, you’re really going to like the new album…that EP is like child’s play compared to what we’re working on!” He couldn’t have been more right.
The album opens with a track titled Rollercoasting. It’s a fast one with lots of great breaks and change-ups. The grindy guitar riffs are played with extreme precision and the whole song sounds like a lumberjack crew going-to-town on a wood pile. At the end, there’s nothing left but splinters and saw dust! As I brushed the imaginary debris off my clothes it was immediately and abundantly clear that Just in Case are not horsing around on this album! Lyrics, arrangements, progressions, production…you name it…every element is at a higher level when compared to their previous work.
On the subsequent song titled Profiles, the band keeps the frenetic pace going and the chorus is sure to have you going about your daily routine murmuring the words, “you fit the profile of someone who could do the job!” It’s a motivating song that feels like Bradley Buzzcut is grabbing you by the shoulders and shaking you while shouting, “DO IT!” The only difference is that no one is asking to be “kicked in the jimmy”. The message is simple. Don’t wait for advice from someone else! Stop stalling! Get off your lazy arse and put in work…tie up loose ends…push through… and above all, be mentally tough about it. This is one of the best songs on the record as the band takes repeating lyrical parts and spins them with some very cool variations on the instrumentation. I particularly like when, late in the song, the first verse is repeated, but the drums and guitars are sustained instead of rapidly strummed. Likewise, drummer Brian Rash-Zeigler throws in some good call & response back-up vocals that heighten the sense of urgency.
With two rock solid speedy songs to open the album, the band shifts gears a little bit with On a Wire (Ready to Fall). It’s another rock solid tune, but the main groove is slowed a little bit. Diversity in tempos is something I enjoy on most records and Just in Case does a good job of mixing things up. As I settled in to this track, there was something familiar about it that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Suddenly, it came to me. Many of the elements of this song remind me of Pulley/TenFootPole (old)/Scott Radinsky… particularly the vocal cadences and melody choices. As I thought about it more, it dawned on me that this is one of the reasons I like the album on the whole so much. While staying in their own lane, JIC captured an inherent energy on Prior Knowledge that a lot of bands shoot for but fall short of reaching. The aforementioned Scott Radinsky projects are just pioneering examples for the sake of comparison.
As the album goes on, the solid tracks continue to stack up and the band puts an array of creativity on display. In the song On TV, JIC comically sings about the frivolity of reality TV. As an example, jabs are thrown at American Idol or The Voice (take your pick) with lines that sarcastically question whether or not your “favorite singer” will be cut from the show. The tone of the song conjures visions of a pathetic and addicted viewer unable to peel his eyes from the flatscreen, who, if you dared to touch the remote control, might yell at you, “DON’T CHANGE THE CHANNEL!” … and these exact words are repeated in the chorus with an off kilter rhythm that is brilliant in the way it adds to the comical stylings and has a very cool musicality to it.
After a whole handful of legitimately good songs, there was still room for JIC to gut-punch me with the song Forbidden Fruit. While this track may not win the popular vote for the best song on the album, it easily wins mine. The song pounces in with a fast reverse doubletime beat and a nicely phrased turn around at the end of the repeating progression before dropping into the verse. The chord choices and overall musical colorings are DOPE! Yeah, I said that! DOPE!!! …and I mean it enthusiastically! With a heavy head bobbin half-time drop, Adam sings about the very essence of the title, “It tasted sooo good! I couldn’t help myself!” While the notion of temptation and the aftermath from caving to it is perfectly illustrated with the vocals, the instrumentation aligns flawlessly. This song is an absolute crusher that I have listened to on repeat for two days now driving to and from work. To use JIC’s own words, I couldn’t help myself! Such is the case for the overwhelming majority of the album.
For the sake of critique, there is very little I can say about Prior Knowledge on the negative side of the fence. Part of me was hoping to hear a new track with Adam on saxophone like he played on the previous EP, but it wouldn’t have necessarily made the album any better than it already is. If I had to single out an instance, I suppose the song Legacies bothers me a little. It’s a slower track and a bit overly repetitive. The vocals strike me as uncharacteristically sketchy and out-of pitch, and this is the only song where the call & response style back up vocals don’t work for me. They are a little bit snotty, but understand that this is merely a petty grippe when considering the work of the album as a whole. A questionable moment is to be expected on a full-length with 13 tracks, several of which have slightly longer run-times than your average punk song. But let’s not dwell on that. Prior Knowledge is a really good record and this is the part where I insert hand claps and cheers!
4.25 out of 5 SDP Skullz
Reviewed by Todd Dulawan