I first listened to Javelin in late 2009 when they were the opening act at a rock club in the charmingly repellant Allston neighborhood of Boston. Headlining was The Very Best, a collaboration between London’s DJ duo Radioclit and Esau Mwamwaya, a vocalist hailing from Malawi. This is what they sound like. Check them out. Anyway, I had never heard of Javelin, but I remember thinking here are two groups with tough names to Google. There was a chance we’d have no electronic record of this event and it’d be lost to memory forever, solely because of peculiar search engine optimization.
Javelin is comprised of two Brooklyn-based cousins, Tom Van Buskirk and George Langford. Their set made no sense to me. Paraphrasing Zapp Brannigan, it made me feel some emotions which were weird and deeply confusing. For example, I have almost no patience for digressive noise-rock music, yet here I was enjoying an electronic duo using foot pedals somehow to create cacophony. I was drawn by the meticulous manipulation of samples and loops. Seriously, these guys were talented at what they were doing, but at the time I wasn’t totally on board. Much of the music was completely dance-y and captivating, yet I remember being put off by what sounded to me like deliberate, aggressive dissonance. And then, wait a tick, how did I wind up with their vinyl in my hand?
Maybe, in between the strange echoes and non-sequitur synth chirps, I could hear the germs of actual songs with musical structure. I recall two distinct impressions: 1) This a live concert, and lots of bands experiment on stage with instrument solos and meandering, noisy interludes, and 2) This sounds like a recently formed group that will find its voice over time. I was being charitable in my critique because, despite myself, I was enjoying the music quite a bit.
I was proven correct in both of my assumptions at the merch table. The only album Javelin was pushing was EP1, a five-track release filled with the themes and grooves from the concert, without much of the abrasiveness I found so off-putting. Plus, the album art is wicked: The band repurposed thrift-store record sleeves, screening JAVELIN on top of the original artwork. Mine used to hold a Chicago album.
Somehow, Javelin fell off my radar after I picked this up. They released an album and a couple other EPs, but I must’ve been laser-focused on my studies or something because I missed those headlines. I didn’t hear another Javelin release until this year’s full-length, Hi Beams. And holy pants, talk about maturation. These guys have grown a lot. I submit to you, for the sake of comparison:
2009’s “Soda Popinski”
You can definitely follow some lines through from EP1 to Hi Beams. Both releases are unrepentantly fun, filled with instantly contagious synth-pop beats and melodies. They play with sound in ways both familiar and unexpected. “Play” feels like the right word, because the band is having a ball, and the strange sonic manipulations evoke smiles from time to time. But as Javelin continues to write, the music is becoming more recognizable as songs. The experimentation remains, but the extraneous bits fall off and we’re left with less of a two-guys-with-keyboards-in-a-bedroom sound and more of a polished, adult effort. In fact, in a number of places, it hardly sounds like the same band.
As near as I can tell, Javelin has always been about disposability. From EP1‘s bootleg record sleeves, to the band’s continuation of the rich history of audio sampling, to even their website’s URL (dollarbinsofthefuture.com), Javelin repurposes the old to create something new, knowing full well it’ll be old again soon enough. Celebrity-evoking song titles such as “Lindsey Brohan” and “Beyondce” reinforce this view of popular culture.
However, just because the references will grow dated doesn’t mean we can’t keep a party going right now in the present, nor does it mean our partying is inconsequential. Nor does it invalidate what we did in the past. As we mature, we absorb past indiscretions into our being, and forge ahead having learned from those lessons. Listening to Javelin’s discography helps us to remember the past without dwelling on it, and use past experiences to create new memories, not forgetting to dance all the while.