Give it a bit of time, and Juiceboxxx is going to be every “cool” blogger’s go-to act. After all, a CV like his already reads like a Vice documentary waiting to happen – the emo-rapper-turned-indie-rocker who’s connected with Elliott Smith and The Breeders collaborator Aaron Espinoza, and whose musical journey so far has already been immortalised in Leon Nayfakh’s book The Next Next Level. Given the amount of potential stories that can be mined from that already-rammed career, don’t be surprised to hear the name Juiceboxxx over the next few months.
And chances are, in all of those stories, his actual music will take a backseat to everything else, primarily for two reasons – a) because a story’s a story regardless of what else is around it, and b) from the evidence shown on Never Surrender Forever, there’s not much to talk about. It’s probably for the best that there’s so much peripheral information around, given that an approximation of Jamie T via The Strokes really isn’t impressive, and beyond a couple of sharp guitar leads on Ripping Up My Soul and Expressway To The Darkness, there’s not a great deal that’s interesting here.
And most of that is down to the sounds that Juiceboxxx is trying to emulate, and how they just aren’t that exciting or cutting-edge anymore. At least on I Wanna Die In A Dunkin, for as abbreviated and honestly stupid as it is, there’s a backbone of hardcore that’s a bit rougher and more aggressive; otherwise, Never Surrender Forever feels like a paler, thinner version of the New York indie sound that had some legs about a decade ago, but has desperately lost its way now. That’s not helped by production that lacks any significant bite or even just something to roughen it up a bit (see the tinkling synths on the title track for the worst example), and a vocal performance that seems to want to come across as snotty and disaffected, but ultimately just ends up as obnoxious.
It’s the sort of end result that really doesn’t seem like a workable end result, particularly with how slight and surprisingly unmemorable it is. At least if Juiceboxxx had strived to mix some more hip-hop elements in his wheelhouse with what’s here, it would’ve been a bit more distinct, not another dime-a-dozen indie EP that pretty much fades on impact. Even in its fleeting moments of spark, this is about as much of a stopgap as it gets. He’ll be sticking around regardless though, so it’s not like any of it matters that much.
For fans of: Jamie T, The Strokes, The Libertines
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Never Surrender Forever’ by Juiceboxxx is released on 14th September on Dangerbird Records.