[sic] Magazine

Desperate Journalist – Grow Up

Hang the DJ.

Post-punk revivalists Desperate Journalist take The Smiths‘ template and subvert it with female vocals in a way that we haven’t seen since… oh hang on. Not that long ago actually. A procession of (desperate?) music journalists are now clamouring to pronounce these guys as the freshest thing since homemade sourdough. Good for them. It either means Desperate Journalist are tipped to do very well or they really are that good. Me, I still fondly recall The Organ, who pulled the same trick about a decade ago. History books show The Organ to have flown somewhat under the radar but, in their day, similar acclaim poured forth from most corners.

(Editor’s note: It is well worth hunting down a copy of Grab That Gun)

What then of Grow Up? Is it ‘second album syndrome’? Or the ‘skip’ in Desperate Journalist’s triple jump to stardom? ‘Hollow’ kicks matters off and I’m reminded of Siouxsie Division, (ahem), sorry, Savages. I meant to say Savages of course, another band making their mountain accent on the shoulders of others. ‘Hollow’ is a visceral rant, a ballsy enough opener, but missing the perspiration palpable in Savages’ early output. I can’t help thinking the title is another potential Desperate Journalist own goal. “Hollow? Like your album?” You get the point.

Desperate Journalist also have an early EP track called ‘Organ’. Coincidence?

Probably yes.

Grow Up runs to a satisfying 45 minutes and contains the prerequisite number of cornerstone tracks such as ‘Why Are You So Boring?’(and folks, I promise I will lay off the song-title analysis from now on). After the atonal opening track, Desperate Journalist lighten up somewhat and hit their familiar melodic straps. ‘Resolution’ and ‘Be Kind’ (clearly a message to me) evoke a later Eighties indie-pop aesthetic. Think – The Heart Throbs, The Sundays, …maybe even a touch of early Cranberries. Jo Bevan still sings of “painful things” and juxtaposed against joyous, jangly guitars her material remains effective. Personally, I favour the more naturalistic songs punctuating the heavyweight tracks here. ‘Oh Nina’ and ‘Purple’ were particularly well received. ‘Radiating’ also made a nice ending note. If anything, I sense they are leaving behind the ‘Banshee’ Goth shimmer of their earlier work. It’s there but no longer dominates.

In isolation, Grow Up is a fine record. Why then do I feel somewhat lukewarm? Context is key here. The Smiths changed music and they changed culture. Morrissey showed young men that it was okay to be sensitive. He/they tapped into the zeitgeist of the day. Desperate Journalist seem more about showing fans it’s okay for a woman to be Morrissey. Fine, but isn’t flipping gender expectations back somewhat redundant now? To be fair Bevan has never made such claims for herself. She is probably less of an ‘impersonator’ than Katie Sketch.

It is impossible to generalise about the worth of revival acts. Each listener will approach the music with their own baggage and their own rule playbook. Acts can be a ‘pale imitation’. They can also be too ‘on the nose’. For me, Savages are the perfect example of a brilliant band that I literally DO NOT NEED. For me there is no added value in listening to Silence Yourself over, say, Juju. Others will disagree.

So it’s probably not you Desperate Journalist, it’s me. I’ve been around that block too often. The label are somewhat culpable too, having only sent a private stream. That’s a horrendous way of listening to new releases to be honest and was never going to show the record in its best light. Unfair on the artist and the reviewer alike.

There we have it. I was sceptical about Grow Up and I still don’t love it. If we must speak of Desperate Journalist as the ‘new’ or female anything then on this latest album it’s probably Gene. Yet there is enough promise about this band to keep me interested.

My advice? Listen for yourself.

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