I think we can safely mark January 25th, 2022 as the date our current 80’s revival trend officially hit its zenith. Jr.Exile unit The Rampage refuse to pussy-foot around the excesses of the genre. They go straight to the source with a cover of Van Halen’s 1984 classic Jump.
First, a little about Jump itself: This song was popular around the time I was born. If it’s true that a person’s early years of sensory input go on to form their taste, this song might as well be part of my musical DNA. Its iconic synth riff is the best of its ilk. I love its melody and texture so much that I often describe similar efforts as “the Van Halen synth.” It’s pretty much the blueprint. Yet as much as I adore the song, I feel no real connection to Van Halen themselves. This makes the song ripe for cover versions.
Exile Tribe units have previously covered hits of this era, but Jump feels targeted directly to my musical preferences. All The Rampage had to do was not mess it up. They give the song a more modern, EDM-informed makeover and translate much of the lyrics to Japanese. But, they maintain everything that made the original so spectacular. If anything, they lean into its cheesy bombast. I love every second of this nostalgic headrush.
Jump’s mammoth synth riff feels super-charged, especially when it makes a triumphant appearance at the climax of a breathless instrumental build during the bridge. The producers add dancefloor drive to the beat, transferring the intensity of rock music to an electronic soundscape. The group’s trio of vocalists relish the chance to belt out the anthemic hooks, with my personal favorite Kazuma Kawamura taking lead throughout much of the track. I love how they transform the pre-chorus into a series of vocal trade-offs. I could have done with one huge power note near the conclusion, but that’s not really the spirit of the original song.
Also, I’m happy to report that the group’s new album is very, very good. In fact, most of its weakest tracks are those underwhelming 2021 singles. Off The Wall and Top Of The Top will satisfy fans of the group’s rock-influenced tracks (Swag & Pride, Fullmetal Trigger). Moon And Back has gorgeous melody and atmosphere. Stampede is a great hip-hop track with production that feels like updated Timbaland. And, Your Life Your Game and All About Tonight are full of funky synth grooves.
Now… when it comes to rating a track like this, I’ve got a bit of a dilemma. I don’t often review straight-up covers. Van Halen’s Jump is a legendary track, no doubt. And by putting their own stamp on it without sacrificing any of the musical glory, I guess I’ll have to treat The Rampage’s version the same. They get an ultra-rare “10” rating right out of the gate.