I have to admit I have a soft spot for Apollo Junction. The first time I saw them live was above The Hawley Arms pub in Camden. Lead singer Jamie Williamson was wearing a surgical boot and I was told that the new bass player had learnt his parts that day on the way down from Leeds. Things didn’t look promising. And then the band came out and produced a captivating performance chock full of danceable, synth fueled, indie guitar belters. I’d been dragged into the orbit of Apollo Junction.
Fast forward two-and-a-half years. Coming off the back of touring with The Pigeon Detectives and Kaiser Chiefs, and building on the success of their debut album Mystery, the Leeds quintet are here delivering a swaggering new LP bursting with rousing songs full of hope and optimism. The band describe All In as an ‘homage to their home, positivity and self belief’. It is an uplifting collection of sing-along tunes which draw their influences from such diverse sources as New Wave, electronica, Brit-pop, and disco. So as the band put it in the album’s opening track, let’s put ‘one foot in front of the other’ and take a walk through All In.
The LP’s opening track Light Up The Sky is an ideal introduction to the style and ethos of album. A song about coming together in times of darkness, it’s starts with some ethereal, swirling synth chords before morphing into something that is equal parts Norman Greenbaum, Blondie and Soft Cell. It’s an anthemic tune with a bouncy Ben Hope bassline, a huge chorus, big drops, and a brooding electronic bridge. What more could you want?
Porcelain is a new song that has the feel of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me era The Cure. Sam Potter’s keyboard chords, and swirling guitar parts at the start of the song evoke the atmosphere of Just Like Heaven. Apollo Junction‘s last single release Two Car Family comes next. The subject matter of the song is the tedium of everyday life and trying to break the cycle of monotony. The theme of monotony is emphasised by the songs unchanging 4/4 drum beat, and by the way singer Jamie Williamson delivers the list-like lyrics – ‘Haircut, Headcase, Suit-up, Rat Race’ in a pacy metronomic manner. It’s like The Vaccines covering R.E.M.’s It’s The End Of The World. Apollo Junction appear to be a positive bunch to me and so it’s no surprise when they introduce an element of aspiration with the chorus as Williamson breaks out of his metronomy and declares it’s ‘A beautiful day for the world to change’.
There’s a welcome change of pace with the slower, atmospheric, but no less stirring Rooftops, before another of the bands former singles arrives – On The Ropes. The band throw everything they’ve got into this song. There are layers of keyboards, backward synth loops, an authentic 80’s sounding Linn drum beat and even a celestial ‘ah-ahing’ choir and echoing vocals. It’s a big tune.
The energetic midfield engine-room of the album is occupied by When We Grow Up where Williamson’s vocals reach their literal high-point; Sometimes, a booming, ringing U2esque song full of delay, where guitarist Matt Wilson goes all The Edge on us; and Unknowns a disco infused track where Wilson channels his inner Nile Rodgers – chucking away like a good ‘un.
There is another single taken from the album Borderlines, followed by Forever the most quintessentially Apollo Junction sounding song on the album. The band have described Forever as being ‘a song about those classic songs that remind you of times, places, people, of how a song can take you right back to the moments that made you what you are today’. Coming where it does, towards the end of the album, you’ve already pinpointed the band’s influences, and the biggest compliment I can pay Forever is that it doesn’t sound like anyone else, by now, it sounds like Apollo Junction.
The album proper ends with Are You Happy one of those deceptively simple songs that are so hard to do well. With unfussy drums, a subtle mix of acoustic and electric guitars, gentle, cheerful chiming keyboards and Williamson’s distinctive vocals it could be compared favourably to something by The Lathums. The song, and album end to the repeated refrain ‘Are you happy, are you happy now?’. I can confidently say that after 40-odd minutes of All In, I am.
All In is released through Shed Load Records on 12/11/2021, it is out on CD, vinyl (with a bonus track Our Goodbye), and available to stream and download from whichever global monolith takes your money every month. I’m no gambler, I don’t possess a poker-face, but when it comes to Apollo Junction‘s second album, I’m All In.