UNDERDOG is the follow-up album from Victoria + Jean. After their debut album Divine Love in 2016, they’ve returned with a second helping of somewhat deliciously dark indie-rock anthems full of flavour, hiding among a collection of otherwise bloated and unoriginal ideas.
The album opens with ‘My Sins‘ – a strong introduction to their sound, with a distorted guitar riff that glitches in and out before the vocal comes in, dripping with angst and attitude. The track marches on with a repetitive rhythm. They let the tension build before pulling it all back in with drops of silence that jump back into the exalted march of the drums and vocals.
‘Free Insult‘ is where the album really kicks into gear, an upbeat jungle of sounds that verge on almost tribal energy. The vocal is powerful and frantic, jumping between the lower and higher register with glorious ease on the chorus. The electric guitar shreds beautifully throughout the track and maintains a high level of energy.
‘Control‘, the third track of the album is an interesting mash-up of 70’s glamour rock with a modern electronic influence that is reminiscent of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s at their peak. It’s a fantastic and infectious energy that bleeds from the speakers, it demands to be played at full volume.
The album starts to lose a bit of steam in the fourth track ‘Imbecile‘ – it’s a slow-burning, indie-rock track that doesn’t do much to stand out from the crowd. It’s a perfectly fine song, the vocals are strong but it’s not very interesting after three strong contenders prior to this one. The next track ‘Read Me Now‘, and a few after that ‘Meet Me At The Diner‘, and ‘Black Knife‘ are in the same boat, a collection of slow-burning numbers that ultimately end up nowhere. It’s a shame really that these were not left on the cutting room floor as they detract from the strength of the first handful of songs that set the bar high. It results in a big swing and a miss for a project that should have been edited to preserve quality.
The eighth track ‘Altar of Madness‘ is an unusual spoken word salad with glitched vocal effects and echoes – it’s weird for the sake of being weird and not because it serves the story that’s being told. The vocal rhythm is offbeat and delivered with a sense of discomfort which translates into a lack of confidence in the delivery. What follows is another middle-of-the-road indie rock number with a distracting vocal effect that serves as just another track that should have stayed in the drafts.
Things pick back up again for the tenth track ‘Du Ar Som Jag‘ – an interesting soundscape with an erratic vocal that bounces around and instrumentation that grows with anticipation as it moves forward. The album closer ‘Window Pigeon‘ is a beautiful, somber song with a haunting piano that leads us through a ghostly soundscape, with glitchy effects and soft vocals drowned in reverb. It’s a lovely way to finish the album on a creative high note. It shows that they can do the weird, glitchy musical style and they can do it well – but not all the time.
It’s evident that there is a lot of talent here that would benefit from a decent amount of editing. Too often, albums can have too many songs just to fill gaps and it hurts the project overall as it waters down the quality of what is on show. As Coco Chanel once said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off” – in this case, take many things off and release an EP instead.
UNDERDOG by Victoria + Jean is out now.