In music and fashion, everything moves in circles. Trends, it might be said, come and go, and then reappear in different forms. In Desperate Journalist, we see a re-emergence of something that has come before, but in a new, refreshing form. Here is a band with a fresh take on a raw, post-punk energy that has been decidedly absent from music for a while now. The group have harnessed the spirit of the past and not only made a sound that is adamantly their own, but that is full of immediacy, excitement and tenacious attitude.
The band first appeared on our radar with the dark guitar indie of Cristina back in 2013, a track that quickly gained them a reputation as an exciting and raw proposition. Their self-titled debut builds on the foundations of Cristina and follow-up Organ, and proves that the group are capable of building and sustaining a high level of songwriting quality control. The album is full of cleverly structured and poetic songs that show that there is something that is so quintessentially British about them that makes them both instantly recognisable and absolutely entrancing. It starts with the lyrics, but bleeds into every aspect of their well-crafted songs, from the pounding drums to the intricately-laced guitar riffs.
Asides from having a brilliant name, the band have a handy trick up their sleeve. Leading lady Jo Bevan can pack a punch when it comes to lyrical and vocal delivery and hold the attention as she howls and exquisitely articulates every vowel and consonant with a delivery that frequently glimmers with a Morrissey-esque hue. She has become famous for her infectious and effortlessly powerful stage presence, and fortunately this comes through on the album. Her tone is no-nonsense, whilst being full of heat and dark romance. It is also often accusatory and unapologetic: “So sorry I’m not kinder/ And wishing you the best / I serve as a reminder/ I need this off my chest,” she snarls in the heavily New Order/Joy Division-influenced Remainder and spits “you deserve nothing” after the staggering guitar solo of Nothing.
But it’s not just Bevan that makes this band so interesting. It’s all about the songs. For instance, take the stripped-back brilliance of Distance, with its ethereal guitars and lurking bass, where a feeling of loss resonants through and forces prickles up your spine as Bevan remembers a lover from the past and howls “I’ve lost you”. It’s atmospheric guitar indie at its most powerful and reveals a simmering, underlying romance in the band’s creations.
One of the most penetrating and exciting aspects of this collection of songs from The Cure-obsessed outfit is the way in which each song has its own character, but fits so perfectly into the feel of the album as a whole. One track leads perfectly into the next, and it really is an album that you want to listen to it in its absolute entirety in one sitting. It is a body of work that invites you in, and makes sure you stay until the bitter end. And if you do happen to stick around until the end, you realise that this is where the album really comes into its own. Heartbeats and Cement round the album off in perfect fashion. Heartbeats is staggering in its might, whilst Cement is simply magical with its jangling guitar riffs that gives it a softer tone that some of the album’s grittier songs.
On first listen, this is a good debut album. But, by the second or third time round, you are able to delve deeper into the work as a whole and realise it is something rather special. It’s an album that both proves that Desperate Journalist have perfectly honed their sound to momentous effect, and that we can expect to hear a lot more from them over the next few years.