EP REVIEW: The Jumping Guns – Self-Titled

The over-saturation of the indie scene can be partially blamed on the South African aversion to calling bands pop rock. Any band with an upbeat tempo and catchy choruses tend to be placed directly into indie category and are left there to fight for attention. This ultimately results in years of hard work to gain a sliver of mainstream attention or in the band stagnating and conforming to genre norms just to get that one big break. Luckily, some bands don’t tend to get hung up on the niches into which people place them and just go about making music.

The Jumping Guns embody this spirit as there is an enormous disconnect between how they sound onstage, and how they sound on a studio EP. Frequent gig-attenders in Stellenbosch would have become accustomed to the band’s energetic indie-rock sound that suits the nicotine-drenched walls of Aandklas. It is a sound that has allowed them to perform alongside the likes of Al Bairre, Desmond and the Tutus and Fokofpolisiekar without anyone really batting an eyelid.

However, their debut self-titled EP sees the band embracing a hybrid of boisterous pop rock and intricate indie rock whilst tempering it all with the glossy synthetic sheen of alt-pop. Their opening song, aptly named “Intro Song”, starts off sounding like it should be included on the OST of Stranger Things until gritty guitar riffs kick in to give it a foreboding and serious aesthetic. This is rather ironic considering the rest of the EP is the epitome of aloof happiness as lead singer JH van der Westhuizen delivers lyrics soaked in romance and teenage-like praise for falling-in-love.

The first real musical offering on the album comes in the form of “Again and Again”. Upbeat guitar riffs heavily coated in synth open up the song to give way to a brief piano interlude that accompanies the opening verses of the song. Thereafter, “Again and Again” reverts back to synth-heavy guitar chords backed by a pop-influenced drum beat and a faint piano melody. The song comes off as an intelligent and mature piece of pop rock that is heavily tempered by the synthetic elements of alternative pop. “Chasing Jewels” sees 3rd World Spectator guitarist Justin Versveld emerging out of nowhere to provide the jaunty guitar chords. This strangely pushes the song to sound a lot like the early days of Danceyou’reonfire. Jangling indie rock elements find themselves colliding with pop rock hooks and intricate guitar work. It is one of the few songs of the EP that pushes the band towards the realm of indie rock.

“Sleepercouch” is their most recent single, and the song that is the most far-removed from the rest of the EP. It comes off as less of a pop rock song and more of a typical alt-pop song with its pulsating bass riff and infectious synth tones. It is a fun and catchy song, but compared to the rest of the EP – it is quite possibly one of the weaker songs in terms of songwriting. However, it is still a rather decent song and I can imagine a live crowd losing themselves in its grooving bass and repetitive percussion. “Masses” was one of the first The Jumping Guns singles I ever heard and each time I hear it I am reminded of the talent within this band. It is a jangling, acoustic-based single that showcases the versatility of Westhuizen’s vocals and the ability of the band to create folksy rock ballads tempered by funky synth tones.

“Say Hello” is yet another song that gives the band an indie rock edge with its needling guitar riffs and sweeping guitar melodies punctuated with occasional bass riffs. It’s a hazy, romantic song that is best suited to be listened to on a warm summer’s day. The EP closes on the Mark Haze produced “City Sounds” that immediately hits the listener with a synthetic accordion before launching into a rapid flurry of acoustic chords and needling electric guitar riffs which persistently drive the song towards delivering catchy choruses and infectious pop hooks. The only saying that comes to mind is that the band saved the best for last even though that is one of the most clichéd things a writer could ever say.

Their self-titled EP proves The Jumping Guns to be worthy of all the attention they have received over the past couple of years. It is an indication of a band that has come far and matured in their sound but are not intent on stopping anytime soon.

7/10

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