The opening seconds of Indonesian Junk‘s terrific Stars In The Night consist of a vocal take played backwards. It’s a fitting introduction to an album that rewinds the clock to a time and place long gone—CBGB circa 1974, to be exact—yet stays decidedly modern. “I, I, I-I-I, I would never treat you like that” stutters singer-guitarist Daniel James in the leadoff track of the same name. His voice is all Joey Ramone, but his words could be a lonely late-night text from last week. (Also: Milwaukee music fans will be delighted when they decipher that opening backwards message.)
And so it goes on Stars In The Night, Indonesian Junk’s snotty, infectious, and deeply felt sophomore LP. Bratty punk and hooks-aplenty power-pop are once again the order of the day (the band’s name comes from a Cheap Trick lyric, after all), but there’s something winningly vulnerable and sincere in the way that they’re delivered. Standout tracks like the shout-along “Why Did I Call You?” and the minor-key “Turn To Stone” mix glam-rock vamping with pained tenderness (“Am I the only one to ever hurt this way? / To live lonely every second of the day?”), while “I Would Never Treat You Like That” avoids any “nice guy” ickiness with a knowing wink and a mile-high chorus. Elsewhere, “Nosferatu” gets snaky and sexy, “Tonight” turns James’ guitars up to 11, and “I’ll Run Away” blurs the line between heap-bopping and head-banging. Stars‘ closing track, “On The Run” (so much running!), even makes room for an acoustic prelude before going full-on slow-burning ballad.
Recorded and mixed by Shane Hochstetler at Howl Street Recordings, Stars In The Night improves on Indonesian Junk’s self-recorded, self-titled 2016 debut in practically every way. Mike Mattner’s drums pack a sonic punch, Johnny Cyanide’s bass pops and pulls, and James’ voice and guitar (dig the solos on the title track and “Lorelei”) have never sounded better. But most important are the songs—sharp, infectious, and finely crafted. Polish or no polish, this is where Indonesian Junk excels, once again.
Indonesian Junk will celebrate the Rum Bar Records release of Stars In The Night Friday, October 13 at High Dive. Twins and Poison Boys will play in support. Until then, listen to the album now, only at Milwaukee Record.