Album Review: Bad Juju – Blue Heaven (2023 LP)

Melbourne alt-rock outfit Bad Juju have today dropped their awaited debut full-length, Blue Heaven. Produced by Callan Orr (Dream on Dreamer, Hands Like Houses) and Sam Bassal (Ocean Grove, Trophy Eyes), the 12-track album explores life’s subtle complexities through moving lyrics and affecting music.

The title track opener sets the tone of the record with big riffs over picked melodies, upbeat rhythms and a catchy hook. Synth layers and blended harmonies bolster the mix to give it the feel of an emo banger you can dance to, something Orr has a knack for (see anything by alt.). Single “The Other Side” follows swiftly with groovy bass and versatile drums in a clear standout of clever arrangements and an introspective message.

Perhaps the best thing this album has going for it is that killer guitar tone, most notable in “Walking Away”. It’s these edgy riffs underneath the ripping chorus passages that really lift the songs and this one makes your finger itchy for the repeat button. Rocking single “Nothing to Give” hits hard with its upbeat verses and ethereal vocals before a stomping halftime hook. The dirty guitar and thumping toms in the breakdown will surely make this track a live staple for years to come.

Modest single “Raincoat” is one of the more emotional cuts and sees frontman Russell Holland deliver an empathetic performance with restrained vocals. Things shift up a gear for “Misery Sticks to Me” – the first offering from the album – with busy drums, swirling synths and singalong vocals to keep the energy going into the second half. What begins as another fast-paced bop with an infectious chorus, “Tired of Running” finds its feet in the bridge to differentiate itself from the rest.

Those ominous tom fills return for “House of Greed” – a fan-favourite in waiting – as the verses build to soaring hooks that let the vocals overtake the guitars in terms of melody. “Me vs You” is a tongue-in-cheek diss track that has a bit of fun with claps, squealing guitar and thumping kicks to get you moving, especially in that final groove. “Dear Mother” is clearly a personal one, however (and it feels bad writing this) it seems a little undercooked lyrically and vocally for such a poignant song – cool drums though!

Nearing the end of the album, “I Know What You Did” is another loaded track with sizzling verses and big singalong choruses. The drums give off a simmering vibe, particularly in the outro, which definitely resonates with the themes of tension and distrust (sorry for all the cooking analogies, it’s just so tasty!). Finally, reserved closer “The Boulevard” winds things down nicely

All in all, Blue Heaven is an impressive collection of songs and is likely to open doors for the Melbourne quintet. The band are in more than capable hands and their ability to craft earworm hooks will see them pop up in many playlists and live shows to come.

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