J is for Juno

JunoLong before “Juno” was a hip movie there was a band by that name from Seattle, Washington that existed from 1995-2003. Juno may very well be the most under-rated band of all-time, they were that good and that important but unfortunately for them the fact they created music that was 100% original and unique the mainstream music world overlooked them. Pathetically sad.

The first time I heard Juno is when Bobby Lerma from The Father Figures walked into the Hat Club years ago and handed me a copy of the band’s sophomore effort A Future Lived in Past Tense. He told me to play the eleventh track on the album “Killing It In a Quiet Way”. The track started off innocently enough, simple beat, mellow tempo, gentle vocal delivery. All of sudden an onslaught of guitars appeared 32 seconds into the song for a few moments and the singer’s delivery changed to a subdued roar. It was over fairly quick and the song reverted back to its original state. That changed again after the next verse of the song but this time the tempo remained at that higher level, building and building until the band launched into the pulverizing second half of the song that was all guitars, bass and drums, no vocals to speak of and I was blown away. The immense power of the guitars was only matched by how many different things were going on at the same time, which I interpreted as Juno doing a lot of extra work in the studio to create that explosive guitar sound.

Then Bobby told me the band had three guitarists. WHAT?!

That does not happen in any genre of music, let alone alternative rock/indie rock/whatever the hell these guys were supposed to be classified as. That is the one defining characteristic of Juno that keeps this band so relevant in my collection today, they simply do not fit any one genre. Some music critics when the band was active even had the nerve to classify the band as emo. If that is the case Juno fit that classification in the same manner a band such as Sunny Day Real Estate did, not the whiny bullshit that became popular in the late nineties and early 2000s. Juno may have created music during that same period but in no way did their music follow that same blueprint. The punk rock aesthetic of D.C. bands such as Embrace and Rites of Spring was more in line with what Juno played.

It took some work but I finally found a copy of A Future Lived in Past Tense and was completely overwhelmed. Did I treasure every song immediately? Absolutely not but that is what made this album so special. The first few plays of the album it was the explosive juggernaut of “Killing It In a Quiet Way”, “Covered With Hair”, “You Are the Beautiful Conductor of This Orchestra”, “A Thousand Motors Pressed Upon the Heart” and “Help is on the Way” that kept me playing the disc over and over. Months passed before the more somber tracks such as “The Trail of Your Blood In the Snow”, “We Slept In Rented Rooms (The Old School Bush)” and most notably “The French Letter” made the proper impression on me and once they did I fully realized that A Future Lived in Past Tense was not just a very good or even a great album. This record is firmly planted in the top 10 of my Favorite Albums of All-Time and I can honestly say I actually like the album more and more as time passes. It really is that good.

I think what amazes me most as a listener is the fact that of those eight tracks I listed (out of a total of 13 on the album), six of them were my favorite song on the record at one time or another. It changes often, another testament to the staying power of this album. What is even more frightening is how the band’s 1999 debut This Is the Way It Goes and Goes and Goes is almost as good, with the tracks “Venus on 9th Street” and the astonishing “Leave a Clean Camp and a Dead Fire” my two favorite songs from this band.

It is tragic that this band did not become huge. They were never meant for that level of mainstream success though, listening to Juno requires too much mental exercise. It is much easier to succumb to listening to the pop drivel that infects the radio airwaves. My suggestion? Go out and get A Future Lived in Past Tense and This Is the Way It Goes and Goes and Goes and discover a band that deserves the tag “epic”, a description that in my opinion gets thrown around far too much.

I love this band so much that you get two videos, one from each album. “The French Letter” from A Future Lived in Past Tense leads things off with “Leave a Clean Camp and a Dead Fire” from This Is the Way It Goes and Goes and Goes the second video. Both songs clock in around 10 minutes and take some time to build up to the meteoric climaxes. Enjoy!

Cheers!

Album Inspiration: A Future Lived in Past Tense

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