Genre labels can be maddening for musicians and listeners alike, offering little to no indication of what an artist actually sounds like. (Honk if the words “post-punk” always leave you with a blank stare.) The members of Indonesian Junk, however, at least give listeners a head start with the name of their band, swiped from a lyric in Cheap Trick’s ubiquitous “Surrender.” True to form, there’s plenty of power-pop blood coursing through the veins of the Milwaukee group’s new self-titled record, but it’s spiked with enough punk, glam, and sleazeball metal to make it a familiar yet increasingly rare type.
Opener “Shake It With You” is another aptly named Indonesian Junk concoction, shimmying and shaking its way through a two-minute come-on stuffed with whispered “ooh”‘s and “ahh”‘s and riffs aplenty. Frontman Daniel James (Ramma Lamma) proves himself a convincingly sneering vocalist and a straight-up guitar hero on tracks like the woozy “Out Of Love” and the stomping “I’m So Bad.” Indeed, Indonesian Junk’s crack musicianship is one of the band’s greatest pleasures, whether it’s in the form of James’ classic riffage, bassist Johnny Cyanide’s rock-solid foundation, or drummer David Barootian’s steady pulse.
Not that the combo was always there. James kicked around a handful of solo-recorded songs for months before assembling Indonesian Junk’s current lineup and releasing a debut EP, Crimes, in 2015. (It should also be noted that James and Cyanide met at an Alice Cooper show, further tipping a hat to the band’s influences.) Indonesian Junk is perhaps a bit less direct and arresting as Crimes (just revel in the majesty that is “Now That It’s Over” from that EP), but its highlights shine bright. “Little Malibu” scores big on a broken spy-surf vibe, some Kinks-esque harmonies, and a huge blast of guitars. “Indonesia” grooves to a classic-rock crunch, and “You Messed Me Up” barrels along at a snot-nosed, Ramones-sized clip. Hell, there’s even time for a dirty barroom cover of “Fuck Off,” by proto-punk cult icon Jayne County.
Locally, Indonesian Junk share musical DNA with acts like The Grovelers, The Hullmen, and, most notably, a slightly less-batshit Drugs Dragons (dig the psych-y closer “Black Hole”). But the band’s penchant for big choruses, bigger hooks, and a dash of glam-rock piss-and-vinegar set it apart from the crowd. If Indonesian Junk’s name isn’t enough to convince you (and hey, it popped up in The A.V. Club‘s annual “Year In Band Names”), then the band’s music surely will.
Before a CD and digital release show Friday, February 5 at High Dive, listen to the self-titled Indonesian Junk album that’s going ’round now, only at Milwaukee Record.