I’m going to give you three guesses as to what Calgary, Alberta’s Port Juvee sounds a lot like. Here’s a clue in the lyrics to the song “All That’s Fine” off their EP, Revenge: “If it’s a stroke of luck / Well, then it’s no stroke of mine.” Stumped? Well, let’s just say that this band doesn’t hide its influence at all. Yes, Port Juvee is Canada’s version of the Strokes. How much so? Well, the band even hired Justin Gerrish, who in the past worked as an engineer with, cough, cough, hack, hack, you know, to helm production of their EP. (Though Gerrish is said to have approached the band after hearing a demo, not the other way around, so I would say Gerrish didn’t pass up a chance to work with a band that sounded like one he worked with in the past when he heard one.) And vocalist Brett Sandford sounds exactly like Julian Casablancas, singing with a perpetual sneer.
While the band does do a pretty good job of impersonation, I’ve got a few thoughts. First of all, the Strokes are passé. They haven’t released a classic album since 2003’s Room on Fire. Secondly, this EP depresses me. It used to be that Canadian bands would sound like popular American or European bands to make inroads into an international market, rather than following their own muse. So this EP is regressive. Sad.
That’s not to say that there isn’t good material on Revenge. My favourite is the punchy and punky “Just the Thing”, which shows the band reaching out beyond their obvious influence (but is it really an influence if you’re just copying someone else?) and even though the song could pass for a Strokes track, it shows the band trying to be slightly original. And, certainly, the other five songs are decent enough. They’re catchy, and, as far as an impersonation goes, the group does a pretty good job. I would say that it might be possible that Port Juvee do a better job at being the Strokes than the Strokes are at being the Strokes these days. But that’s the most diplomatic thing worth mentioning.
Ultimately, the obviousness of what this band is trying to be hits you like someone dropping a piano off a tall building on you. So while this is a great EP for those waiting for the Strokes to issue a new album, there’s nothing more beyond that that would warrant a recommendation. Unlike other bands that sound like other bands, Port Juvee really doesn’t add too many wrinkles to the formula, and the end result ends up being less than enticing. I really hope, for this outfit’s sake, that they can look beyond trying to be cool by copying a once red hot group, and move beyond that into fresh territory – if not for their sake, then for the sake of forging a distinctly Canadian identity in music.