While the indie-electronic crossover was quite the novel idea back in the ’90s, it’s become a saturated and competitive field. Nevertheless, bands flock to the genre like bugs to the zapper, among them Philadelphia-based Ape School.
Led by Michael Johnson, who’s collaborated with everyone from Kurt Vile to Daedelus to Lilys, the project puts its faith in both guitars and keyboards on Ape School’s latest full-length, Junior Violence, often aiming for some form of saccharine-fuelled pop catharsis (see: upbeat numbers “A New Low! It Sucks Itself!” and “Carry On”).
But while these synth-spiked tracks make up the majority of the album, Ape School do mix it up, throwing in an adult-contempo indie rock ballad here (“Ready for Duty”) and an atmospheric slow-burner there (“Weak in the Teeth”), as Johnson’s strong but unremarkable baritone becomes the glue that holds it all together.
Still, records like these live and die by their hooks, and few here are memorable. Plus, with Ape School lacking that defining characteristic to set them apart from a million other like-minded bands, Junior Violence just doesn’t make much of a lasting impression.