With the mania accelerating rapidly, the moment is theirs for the taking...
As that unmistakable falsetto flutters, you have to conclude that, although Mark Greaney frequently sings like he doesn’t own any personally, JJ72 have got some balls. This tour has already seen gigs upgraded and dates added to accommodate the swell of new fans enticed by ‘Oxygen”s surprise hit status. So, in the face of the very real prospect of the big time beckoning, and considering their famed introspective nature, you might expect these youngsters to buckle under the weight of expectation. But not a bit of it.
Instead, dressed as always in wall-to-wall black, they play tonight with incredible directness and a rumbling desire to milk their songs for every last ear-bashing decibel. [I]That[/I] voice, though, rubbing up against the battered guitars and becoming gradually more sepulchral with every song, is still the key. That’s not to belittle Hillary and Fergal – cacophonously creating the rhythmic force behind Greaney’s vaulting ambition – but when they melt away for him to do an emotionally raw solo ‘Desertion’, things might get considerably quieter, but the focus doesn’t change for a moment.
It’s here, if anywhere – alongside their imperious sense of art and occasionally purple prose (who else would use the word “thee” in their lyrics?) – that those Radiohead comparisons still warrant inspection. Like Thom Yorke, Greaney takes the confessional to skin-crawling heights. But, as if to counter those frequent accusations of teenage angst, JJ72 are pushing the envelope of the nascent noise that existed on the album. This could, of course, be construed as the musical version of throwing a tantrum, but wallowing in self-pity could never manage to sound this savage.
Accordingly, these songs are now like barbed wire – jagged, twisted, but incredibly well-designed for the task in hand. ‘Oxygen’ is played with life-affirming jubilation rather than the usual sense of autumnal melancholy but, when the time comes to stamp on the pedals for the chorus, it’s also now as brutal as a bare-knuckle boxing bout. Ditto ‘Snow’, played with clamorous fury, ‘Undercover Angel’ translating the sound of nerves not so much being touched as ripped out, and forthcoming single ‘October Swimmer’ swooping and bleeding at the seams in a manner that suggests it will soon be hanging around in the vicinity of the word ‘classic’.
With the mania accelerating rapidly, the moment is theirs for the taking. No longer easily dismissed as a mere angst merchant or indie bedwetter, Mark Greaney might still be baring himself lyrically and emotionally, but the only stripping he and JJ72 are doing now takes place on our expectations.