By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
"Are you there, Junior?" a pre-Sweating to the Oldies Richard Simmons look-and-sound-alike caws over a hopscotch disco beat. "I'm here, Senior!" his pale, frail, rail-thin counterpart gleefully confirms. Cue a serrated, Elvis-style rockabilly riff. Cue a call-and-response house party orgy. Cue the undisputed party album of the year. Cue the author of this piece flipping out like a five-year-old locked in a stuffed animal vending machine.
Cue said author prepping for tête-á-tête (ooh, does that sound dirty) with cheese Danish duo Junior Senior, retaining one fundamental expectation: that Jesper "Junior" Mortensen and Jeppe "Senior" Laursen will cackle back and forth about ass play like a real-life Terrance and Phillip. Cue God ruining everything, as usual, merely delivering a laconic Senior, who calls from London and modestly shrugs off the complex, post-postmodern aesthetic that encapsulates his band's disco-punk-pop-techno hybrid theory--all in a glorious, cement-thick monotone.
"I think Danish people have a very... People always say our voices, they sound like we have a potato in our mouth," Laursen says, giggling, when I ask if he's tired or jet-lagged. "It's quite slow and monotone and deep. So that's why [you sound like] you're falling asleep."
Thing is, even during a bullshit session with a C-level Senior, I'm nowhere near naptime. Minutes earlier, I used the band's "Rhythm Bandits," a wannabe Chubby Checker/Daft Punk mash-up from Mars, as a soundtrack for jogging to the grocer to snatch batteries for my cassette recorder. I felt gay and slo-mo and animated and excited to be alive--all things I'm generally, um, not. To paraphrase Mariah Carey, they got me feeling emotions, and I'll be practicing Vanilla Ice hand-to-skull head bobs when the lads sashay through their first proper American tour.
Spiked with playful, gay vs. straight goofs like "Chicks and Dicks" and "Shake Your Coconuts" (the latter applies to boys too, the coconut being of the oblong variety), Junior Senior's debut LP D-D-Don't Stop the Beat (Crunchy Frog/Atlantic) takes the almanac of the last, oh, 40 years of pop-rock, swipes all the super-hooks and sexual proclivities, then re-imagines it all as a booty-busting Euro-clubber revue with such accessibility and familiarity that the listener is left spouting asinine rhetoricals: "Hey, was that Michael Jackson on backups? Isn't that a Beach Boys harmony? Wait a second! That sounds like Chemical Brothers! I mean Prince! I mean James Brown! What the fuck?!"
MTV2 is playing the spats off the duo's eerily MJ-informed single "Move Your Feet," and cynics would suggest that this has everything to do with the video's playful, cut-and-paste animation--if said cynics weren't twisting and shouting such opinions into hibernation. See, nobody's beating down Junior Senior's door with plagiarism suits; the boys are too goddamn innocuous. Good artists borrow, great artists steal, but the transcendent ones simply change the page order.
As pop-culture junk food goes, Junior Senior are a peanut butter hamburger, and hipsters are the first and most ravenous consumers. "I was always a bit worried about if [we] would be very mainstream in the U.S.," Laursen admits. "If something is mainstream here, the indie kids won't touch it. It's really kind of this American 'black or white.' So it's cool that it's being taken in by the indie kids. "
Those progressive domestic indie kids can surely relate to Junior Senior's Wham!-like crossover appeal in the gay community. Everyone who writes about the band, present company included, is quick to point out their physicality and sexuality: Junior is the slender, hetero guitar genius, Senior the big gay bear. This is part of the mystique--and the sales pitch. Both men are unmistakably specific about what they want to do: fuck, party, and inspire us to fuck and party. The beats are straight, the lyrics aren't, and the band has no interest in revealing if they're as studly as their songs imply.
"I think we're really bad at that groupie thing," Laursen laughs. "You know, in general, we're both really bad at--what do you say--'picking up,' or being the one to take the first step. I personally think it's the same for Jesper. You get a bit shy. A lot of people come up to me that didn't before and you don't feel it's real or right and you get kinda embarrassed.
"Often when people meet us they think we're 24-hour party people, like wow, we're crazy, we're screaming all the time, you know?" He pauses, chuckles, and concedes, "But, I mean, when we go out, we do that..."
What else do they do? Embrace hedonism. Have fun. Dance. Play Guess Our Influences. Simple concepts that work for straight indie bookworms and gay club kids alike. But D-D-Don't Stop the Beat isn't sandwiched between P.O.D. and John Mayer on Top 40 radio yet. This is not Radiohead. This is not headphones music. Junior Senior seem destined to dominate, but for now, they'll have to take it one bedhead at a time.