Formed in late 2012, Juggling Wolves define themselves as a “progressive, pop, rock, ambient, electro, grunge” Irish band based in Co. Cavan. The band consists of Jimmy Deface and Johno Leader. Rather than labelling the band as unsigned to any record label, Juggling Wolves instead consider themselves “independent”.
From the direct quotes in the first paragraph from the band’s Facebook page, you can’t help but already learn something about them. Firstly, they don’t like to assign themselves to one simple genre, so instead they chose a few, and this is definitely reflected in their debut album, which was released on December 10 of this year. With its mix of mellow guitar riffs, piano melodies and tasteful use of synths, no song is consistent. Or should I say no vocal song is consistent. The album contains not one but two songs that are just instrumental (if synths are considered instruments!): ‘One Trick Pony’, which is pure electro and gives one the sense of being in a sci-fi film, and ‘Terms & Conditions’, the last song on the album, closes the band’s debut with a soft, relaxing acoustic sound and minimal special effects. Normally you may hear just one instrumental song on a band’s album, but for a band that will not confine itself to a genre is hardly likely to confine itself to rules, written or unwritten.
As you listen to the album from start to finish, you can understand why they chose so many genres to describe their style. Rather than do a rock song here and a pop song there, Juggling Wolves mixes it up with perhaps two to three genres per song.
‘Deadman’s Strings’, for example, starts off slow and mellow before quickening into an almost techno beat. The music slows and starts in line with the vocals but not in such a way that it would get you worked up and then suddenly deflate your high. It keeps you listening because you just don’t know what’s coming next. And it’s this that makes the album’s two longest tracks, ‘Mercury’ and ‘How to Salvage a Failing Butterfly’ (the title song) worth listening to. Let’s face it, a song that stretches from 7-9 minutes needs to be able to keep your attention. With ‘Mercury’ especially, the surprise change in pace and instruments makes it almost suspenseful. The same can be said for ‘How to Salvage a Failing Butterfly’, except for the fact that it changes pace almost too late in the song and you can’t help but anticipate the end.
Deface’s vocals remind me of Caleb Followill from Kings of Leon. His voice dominates almost all the vocal set list, bar one or two when he is drowned out by the synths, which may or may not have been the intention. With this band, you just don’t know!
The band describes their debut album as an experiment, and an experiment it was. There’s always a risk for a musician/musicians when they decide to be diverse. It either works or it doesn’t. Jack White’s first two solo albums have achieved a diversity that doesn’t confuse the listener as to which way the music is leading them, in other words, it works. And I think that ‘How to Salvage a Failing Butterfly’ is another example of good diversity. Never once while listening did I wonder what exactly it was I was listening to. Leader’s instruments and “weirdnesses” gel nicely with Deface’s strong vocals and musical ideas, and one can only speculate what future experiments will be concocted in the bosom of Co. Cavan.