Justin Courtney Pierre – ‘An Anthropologist On Mars’

By Sean Reid

For most, if not all, of us, 2020 didn’t go as planned, and Justin Courtney Pierre is no exception. Alongside reunion shows with Motion City Soundtrack pencilled in on both sides of the Atlantic, a second solo full-length was Pierre’s primary aim for the best part of the year. We all know what happened next, but for JCP things turned out considerably worse; collapsing in his bathroom led to a concussion, before having spinal surgery in the summer. With his plans derailed, a stubborn Pierre was eventually persuaded by Epitaph head honcho and producer, Brett Gurewitz, to release the songs they had completed almost 12 months ago.

Long time admirers of Pierre’s work should find plenty of familiarity in ‘An Anthropologist On Mars’; over the course of its five songs, he’s as lyrically self-deprecating and introspective as ever, complimented by his proven flair to write power-pop hooks.

‘Dying To Know’ sets out the table with urgency and a playful guitar hook. Lasting just 100 seconds, Pierre’s words question who he is, coincidently having been written before his concussion. Likewise, ’I Hate Myself’ is straight to the point with subtle synth swells and driving power chords.

‘Footsteps’, is more fleshed out due to its steady tempo, crisp instrumentation, and familiar structure. JCP reflects on his inability to carve out his own path, questioning his purpose – “If I search for every answer, there’s a chance I’ll never know” – and a desire to forget moments of his past. Countered by a spirited mid-section with handclaps and a group singalong, it’s a fine example of Pierre’s ability to create a musical juxtaposition with his downbeat, reflective words.

His mood seems to take an upward swing on ‘Promise Not to Change’, though; sprinting through in under two minutes, it highlights Pierre’s gift for writing memorable choruses, while the use of swirling synth keys reminiscent of Motion City Soundtrack, alongside a quick, riveting guitar solo, gives the track plenty of familiarity.

‘Illumination’ rounds off this all-too-short outing with a steady structure that nicely builds to incorporate clean instrumentation. Pierre’s words are delivered with assuredness, content in who and where he is  – “There is no easy way to say what I need to say” – as ascending synth keys create the impression of him departing to go elsewhere. It’s a fitting conclusion to this concise set of songs.

Regardless of how consistent ‘An Anthropologist On Mars’ is, it’s understandable that Pierre might have preferred to release these songs as part of a full-length record. While it’s a solid reminder of JCP’s songwriting ability, it’s also frustratingly all too brief, leaving you wanting more. However, the straightforward delivery makes it a digestible listen with plenty of replay value.

Curiously, you have to wonder if the self-deprecating nature would have worn thin during a full-length. Still, these five songs are effortlessly threaded together by it, complimented by bright, uncomplicated and appealing choruses – for Justin Courtney Pierre, ‘An Anthropologist On Mars’ is an ideal springboard towards normality.

SEAN REID

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