What's more, the updated JB tone reads a least a degree or two warmer than before—the duo's icy palette has been expanded, pushing the emotional temperature to somewhere in the upper 40's. Even the title is a step less melancholic than its forebears, lacking the melodramatic finality of Last Exit or So This Is Goodbye. Begone Dull Care in comparison could be a Morrissey lament, and lends the tracks gathered here a kind of miserable-prince regality, like Des Esseintes with an 808. The title is an homage to an abstract film by the Canadian animator Norman MacLaren, whose methods of painting directly on celluloid predate works by more well-known practitioners like Stan Brakhage.
The (comparative) sonic thaw doesn't mean Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus have let their inventiveness dull, though: Begone Dull Care is edgy and technoid, as forward-thinking in its own way as its predecessors were. The futuristic Detroit sheen on display makes it seem likely that Greenspan may have been peeking over Morgan Geist's shoulder a bit when guesting on the latter's Double Night Time. "Work" is particularly razor-sharp, its sweaty Italo robot stomp making it one of the heaviest tracks in the JB oeuvre. Elsewhere, slight decorative touches recalls Depeche Mode's sampled-based inventiveness.
The other half of the Junior Boys equation is their killer pop sensibility, strong melodies delivered by Greenspan's gorgeous choir boy pipes, crisp and breathy, that summon memories of great '80s male vocalists like George Michael and Daryl Hall. What distinguishes the pop element here is that, by and large, the songs use an abundance of verses to carry melodic weight.
While So This Is Goodbye felt like it had some redundancies and was in places operating more on formula than inspiration, Begone is lean and super-taut, a mere eight songs long. A master class in sequencing, it gathers steam and carefully unfolds its delights. Things peak with "Hazel," a stand-out with bright, punchy synth stabs and syncopated electro-funk cut-ups that recall Discovery-era Daft Punk—here it's clear that Greenspan and Didemus have the chops to mainline pop sugar directly into your veins if they wanted to. To their credit, though, instead of swerving into multi-tracked, candy choruses, Begone Dull Care reveals its breadth of style and charm over repeated listens.