By Phillipe Roberts
Thrilling down to its triumphant final fadeout, Junior is the brilliant finale of Corridor’s ascent from ragtag Montreal punks to SubPop’s first ever Francophone signing. Listening to their previous album–the shimmering, shape-shifting Supermercado–it’s hard to imagine Corridor taking their grounded, elemental rock and roll sound any further. An uncompromising stunner, Supermercado’s carefully-crafted eleven tracks formed a distinct, ornately-detailed sonic universe, dense with the kind of golden melodies that could make any one of them a hit. With Junior, Corridor have achieved a bold new evolution of their style and produced a cohesive, invigorating album that’s far too energizing to listen to sitting down. This is the one you dance to.
Junior’s laser-focused continuity could be boiled down to the duress under which it was created; a week was all the band had to produce the masters in time for a 2019 release. That urgency translates directly into the grooves on the record, as Corridor have never made an album that sounds so focused right out of the gate. Trading Supermercado’s winding elegance for suckerpunch immediacy, the band dives decisively into opener “Topographe,” laying down a lush thicket of guitars as vocalists Dominic Berthiaum (also bass) and Jonathan Robert (also guitar) spar in reverb-drenched call and response. Drummer Julien Bakvis blasts through the wall of sound with a melodic drum part–if Animal Collective ditched their samples for guitars once again for a louder Sung Tongs, this might be where they’d land.
The next three tracks conjure up more familiar sounds for Corridor, as they dig down into the hook-laden, dreamy indie rock that they know best with a new vigor. It’s a breathless sprint: the mysterious riffing of “Junior,” the gritty krautrock pulse of “Domino,” and the rambunctious, seasick “Goldie” with its heavenly synthesizer jam and detuned, ambient outro. Guitars are everything in a Corridor song, and these three tracks are as much an exhibition for Robert and second guitarist Julian Perreault’s deft interplay as they are expertly crafted rock tunes. The pair have never sounded better, and they push each other to symphonic levels of bombast. “Agent double” is especially bombastic, the duo playing off Berthiaum’s bass for a climbing post-punk outro that suggests danger around every corner.
True to the spirit of their rousing live shows, Corridor earns every second of these delirious jam-outs. “Domino” in particular feels like it could stretch out even further, invoking the measured lullaby of Deerhunter’s “Desire Lines,” while piling on the feedback at the pace of Parquet Courts’ Velvet Underground-worshipping best. You’re left with the sense that the band had to be reigned in just before disappearing completely over the event horizon.
Synthesizer additions and the gentle balladry of “Grand Cheval” aside, Corridor sticks to their guns throughout Junior, preferring to augment their guitar-driven sound with effects when necessary, rather than bow to the impulse to burn it all down. These experiments, like the race car crashing into the opening drum hits on “Milan,” or the arena rock drum fills and skronking sampler solo that kicks “Pow” into the great beyond, feel necessary. They never crowd the band out of existence, or suggest any hesitancy. On Junior, everything lands on sure-footed instinct, precisely on cue.
As the instrumental fireworks crest on appropriately-titled album closer “Bang,” sending the band off into the sunset with Spaghetti Western guitars and a positively tear-jerking synthesizer solo, I find myself reflecting on the first time I saw Corridor live. Packed beneath the hardly eight-foot high ceilings at L’Escogriffe in Corridor’s hometown of Montreal, the four-piece whipped our swirling mass of bodies into a frenzy, song after song. Now, as they soundtrack their own curtain call, fading steadily for over 30 seconds, it feels like the end credits to this chapter of a whirlwind underdog story. Here’s hoping that this release–and the next–launches them into an even brighter future, bringing new crowds to their feet and into the air for years to come.