No one expected 2020, nor did anyone expect to spend 2021 processing the past year. Juice balances self-deprecating sarcasm with nonchalant honesty in their new 8-track project, Boy Story. To the best of their ability, the Brooklyn, NY-based group captures the confusion and discomfort from the last two years with a touch of playfulness.
The opening track, “Starlove,” is like the first astronaut wearing a thick spacesuit, floating in an unknown universe. Whether it is the ominous synth or the unexpected whisper of “Do you love me?” at the end, “Starlove” warns of the unknowns. Thus, it’s only fitting for Boy Story to be a musical time warp featuring a wide array of current-day renditions of ’90s/’00s/’10s alternative rock, pop punk, hip-hop, and everything in between.
“Girlfriend Song” echoes of old-school 5 Seconds of Summer from the early 2010s, the time when Tumblr ran the world and the skater kids were kings at high school dances. In this classic bedroom pop-rock song, Ben Stevens’s vocal is certainly the cherry on top. Stevens’s voice is a mixture of Sam Smith, Matty Healy of The 1975, and Sameer Gahdia of Young the Giant. Whether it is the angsty breakup lyrics or the punchy guitar riffs, “Girlfriend Song” feels like a refreshing lemonade from the suburbs of your teenage years. The poppy melody is the simple syrup, the lyrics, on the other hand, dominate your sensory with a punchy sourness.
“Butterfly Boy” further trails down memory lane. Slowing down as the first R&B track of the project, this song glistens like steady water in the backyard swimming pool. As they paint the scene of a picture-perfect neighborhood, the bass line looms quietly but firmly over Stevens’s and Christian Rose’s verses. Written in a slightly unsettling minor progression, “Butterfly Boy” recalls a young boy’s experience of a perfect, worry-less childhood. Without pointing it out explicitly, the track compares jumping up and down on a trampoline to the inevitable, irreversible power of the butterfly effect of growing up. Accompanied by an echoey vocal harmony, the second half of this song features a violin-led buildup by Christian Rose. Agonizing but not to the point of grievance, the buildup almost provides too much space for listeners to recall their own childhood.
“Superimposed,” on the other hand, focuses on the frustration of growing up. Instead of recalling particular mementos from the past, “Superimposed” describes an unsuccessful attempt at trying to become just like everyone else through a Gameboy-like upbeat melody. In contrast, the lyrics are filled with overwhelming despair that signals a complete frenzy. There’s a glaring sense of push-and-pull scattered all over the track. Whether it is the Gameboy melody against the apparent crying-for-help lyrics, or the need to superimpose against the wish to hang on to the past self, “Superimposed” is what growing up would sound like as a song.
“End of the World” comes in at the end of the album like a revelation to all the growing pain. This time, the Gameboy, bubbly melody feels like a celebration. The “End of the World” described here is in fact, not the end of all things, but a state of peace and acceptance of the presence. At one point, before the acceptance, perhaps growing up is what feels like the “End of the World;” but everything seems to have changed with the feeling of acceptance, yet everything also remains the same.
“Yeah I thought that I was special like everybody else / Turns out I was special like everybody else.” This particular line by Rose perfectly summarizes the whole record and all of its complex feelings. We’ve arrived at the world of post-lockdown, post-2010s, despite never getting a chance to process the past and the fading inner child, we accept and move on while arriving at the “End of the World.”
Juice’s Boy Story is not a simple story about a boy. Rather, it’s a musical and metaphorical time warp. Boy Story is a record capturing the first acceptance of the inevitable arrival of adulthood. Although this acceptance comes with reminiscence and at times denial, it is, after all, introspective and rewarding. With an album spanning across an ambitious selection of genres, Juice manages to capture the kaleidoscopic feelings of growing up and moving on.