JANK – ‘Versace Summer’ Review

Posted: by Tommy

I can’t shut up about JANK for all the right reasons. In less than a year, the self-proclaimed bad boys of weedpop have dropped two MONSTER releases that upstage and subvert entire genres. Full-disclosure: I’m not afraid to admit they swiftly became my new favorite band after a single listen of their 2015 debut Awkward Pop Songs. It’s difficult to fathom a time where JANK wasn’t dominating DIY. The latest EP Versace Summer dropped just two days ago, and it’s the loudest lettuce in all the land.

If you’ve never heard of this band before – JANK is an outlier. They’re a perfect storm of the concentrated essence of the MySpace generation, played by three incendiary musicians each in their own right, occurring at the precisely time when music needed them most. Matt Diamond is a godsend to guitars everywhere. The galloping stallion that is Sam Becht behind a drumkit has never been more precise (now that he’s free and all). Most of all, what did DIY possibly do right to deserve bassist Ruben Polo in any capacity? (Not enough – do better, suck less). Bands spend their whole life trying to capture a fraction of the magic and energy JANK already has. I’ll be blunt – they set the bar pretty high.

Before a single new song was released, many were asking the same question – isn’t an 8-month record cycle too short? Is Versace Summer a rushed attempt at capitalizing on success, or is JANK so punk that conforming to any “standard” band-isms is forever out of the question? I’d go as far to say the latter. Their music, and the electrified conversation surrounding it, takes aim at how *most* bands express profound emotions through blunt meta-commentary on songs about profound emotions. If that sentence makes sense, you’ve listened to JANK. If it doesn’t, you should probably listen to JANK.

On Versace Summer, we once again find crisp, in the pocket grooves blended among dissonant vocals & unpredictable lyrics. Music feels exciting once again. I count myself among many – from the casual house show attendee to Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen, enthralled with their approach. Even so, we must be reminded that this EP is only JANK’s sophomore release. The potential is strong in this one.

Despite the familiarity, most songs on this record don’t particularly feel like what we’ve come to expect from a JANK song. The trio’s experimental sound has veered into some unexpected territory akin to the early careers of larger-than-life bands like My Chemical Romance and Brand New. In retrospect, such experimentation eventually redefine what was possible for entire subgenres, with MCR and Brand New leading the pack in their prime. So far, JANK is well on their way – louder than God’s reefvolver and twice as shiny.

For example, on “General Tso What” (my favorite track on Versace Summer), we find the musical equivalent of a steamy 80’s softcore lovescene seamlessly stumbling into a Pierce The Veil, Warped Tour set. Pulling off that sentence is hard enough, but in an actual song?? On “Gucci Spring” (a spiritual follow-up to “The Hat Store” on their debut), the main instrumental borrows elements of the signature violin synth on Childish Gambino’s “STN MTN/Kauai”. On the title track, effectively THE certified banger of summer, surf and math rock are pitted against one another for five minutes of beachside battle royale.

JANK knows exactly what they’re doing, and I swear, all of this is a compliment.

From a musicality standpoint, the debut, APS, was the standard-definition TV, with Versace Summer hitting that 16:9 golden ratio leaving you asking “what am i looking at and why do I like it so much?” JANK makes no mistake of displaying range and booty-shaking no matter the tempo, but with much more tame (dare I say serious?) lyricism this time around. If we treat JANK as comedians and musicians independently, as musicians they’ve only improved, even if this EP is a continuation of APS. But from a lyrical standpoint, I anticipate many (myself not among them) will feel confused by some the more “mature”/less-comedic lyrics.

Comedy occurs in brain when something happens that you didn’t expect. You laugh. You didn’t expect it. You move on. Being told the same joke twice doesn’t work. Instead of rehashing material from their proverbial Netflix 1-hour special, JANK opted to get real, which might be the most unpredictable and #onbrand choice of all. In “Chunks (Cool Enuff)” Matt shouts the hard-hitting “am i not cool enough for you?“, and for several sobering moments throughout, the listener is forced to confront a reality where this band isn’t all meme-drizzled weedjams. JANK was never about being cool. Comedy and seriousness are not mutually exclusive. You will still love this album.

Until you’re tastefully conquering 7+ genres on a single release, calling your band weird is officially a cop-out until further notice. Until another band raises the bar for what music can be, JANK is the only band that matters doing what they do.

Thanks for taking us away to our holy grail.