Love Junk is an enduring record about being young and looking for human connections.
In 1988, at the height of critical adoration for their debut album Love Junk, the Pursuit of Happiness were an electrical jolt into Canada’s staid and stale music community. There were other rock bands working the scene, but none of them had TPOH’s secret weapon: singer-songwriter Moe Berg. He was an anti-rock star, the country’s most lovable rock nerd. Lanky, long-haired, with glasses that felt two-sizes too big for his face, but intellect and insight that couldn’t be contained by his mind. Berg sang about being sexually frustrated and frozen out of relationships with self-deprecating humour while he and his band pounded said frustrations out on guitar, bass, and drums in what then felt like a throwback to rock’s golden era.
It’s hard to imagine what kind of response the the cynical witticisms of Love Junk would get if the album were to be released now, in the midst of #MeToo. I’d expect that some righteous idiot would twist and misconstrue the lyrics to “Hard To Laugh” as misogynistic, missing the whole point of the song as summed up in the final line of the chorus: “You’ve got to laugh to prevent yourself from crying.” The record as a whole is fraught with stories of failed relationships, sung from Berg’s perspective. What sets his lyrics apart is the underlying subtext of a timeless, universal truth: whether you were eighteen in 1988 or in 2018, navigating love, sex, and relationships is like walking through a minefield — one misstep and your world could get blown apart.
Love Junk is a record about being young and looking for human connections. “Man’s Best Friend” deals with having romantic feelings for your best friend’s partner; “Walking in the Woods” imagines what could have been after a missed connection on an early morning subway train. Both of the album’s best known tracks, “I’m An Adult Now” and “She’s So Young”, articulate the precarious journey from adolescence to adulthood with wit and humour (in the former) and tenderness and compassion (the latter).
Three decades ago, Moe Berg’s confessional songwriting style spoke to a generation on the brink of adulthood that didn’t feel ready or able to take on the world. Technology has drastically changed our lives in the last thirty years, but there are aspects of human relationships and behaviour that remain as perplexing now as they have always been. No one has yet come up with an app that sorts out the perils of personal interactions or an AI assistant to eliminate the need for human connection altogether. For now, humankind is still left to its own devices to try and “figure out what the hell went wrong”.