Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Jet Age: A Review Of Domestic Disturbances (Record Release Show Is Friday!)

When he's not basking in the glory of having produced that awesome debut from D.C.'s own Dot Dash, Eric Tischler leads the 3-piece The Jet Age.

The band's fourth album, Domestic Disturbances, is due to be released in January but there's a record release party at D.C.'s Comet Ping Pong on Friday so I'm sure there will be copies for sale then.

This record is a scorcher! Like some weird mix of Guided by Voices and The Wedding Present, this concept album -- yes, another one! -- hits a nerve in any listener who's paying attention to things these days. The zeitgeist is fucked or, rather, we're all scratching our heads and going: "What the hell is going on around here?"

Combine that unease with songs somewhere between D.C. hardcore and classic rock and you've got a winner, an existential journey through suburbia, Quadrophenia (1973) for the American Beauty (1999) set.

The Jet Age remind me quite a bit of another 3-piece: Husker Du. There was fury there, and yet the songs were somehow cerebral. They were about something and not just odes to "cars and girls," to paraphrase Prefab Sprout.

This band is doing the same thing. The Jet Age craft tunes of passion and intellect and let's thank them for that.

I guess for the uninitiated I'd say imagine The Who of 1965 bashing their way through one of their own later concept albums.

Domestic Disturbances works song-by-song but also as a larger project.

Eric Tischler, bassist Greg Bennett, and drummer Pete Nuwayser create an unholy racket here but the tunes are sharply focused and the playing tight.

"I'm An Agent" has a blues-y feel and that segues into "I Want To Touch You Again" which echoes twitchy postpunk acts like Talking Heads and The Embarrassment. Catchy and with a touch of Greg Kihn (!) on the vocals -- hey, he was a power-pop pioneer at one time! -- Eric Tischler sings/implores the title line. Bennett's bass is prominent here and the drums pop like firecrackers around the melody.

"You Can't Turn Around" is like The Velvet Underground's "Foggy Notion" being covered by the Minutemen. Eric's vocals are a bit loose here and the song sounds -- impressively -- like 3 guys throwing down the riffs in one live take.

Eric's notes describe "Hey, Captain" as "an existential plea to God" but the song reminded me -- oddly -- of Marshall Crenshaw. Of course, the music is more ferocious than anything Marshall every put to tape. Still, it's postpunk pop that tackles a serious idea in an almost lighthearted, spry manner.

When I listen to something like this, it feels as energetic as any D.C. punk pioneer and yet it's more focused and accessible.

"Left For Dead" is easily my favorite cut on the record. Like a manic take on "Something I Learned Today" from Husker Du, with Eric's admitted nod to My Bloody Valentine in the use of the tremolo, the song kicks and surges with a sense of desperation. The guitar lines are fast and furious, the bass swells and thumps, the drums pound, and the cymbals crash, as the cut storms by. There's a lull and then the song slowly fades away.

Swiping an Obama ad-line, "Change I Can Believe In" blurs the lines between the political and the personal as the hero of the album struggles with his life and rails against the current president. A sense of disappointment in both is apparent. The sound of another liberal let down by the current regime...

"Some Nights" and the following "I Want You" and "Sometimes I Can Make You Laugh" find the hero attempting to put his personal life together. As the lyrics turn inwards again, the drums still rocket in fury, the guitar still chops like the Wedding Present's Gedge -- The Jet Age toured with those guys -- and the bass holds thing down.

As the pop single on the record, "Sometimes" sounds a tiny bit like Ben Folds Five (!) but this is guitar-led rock and not piano-based quirkiness. Still, like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, this is funky, upbeat, fun stuff and a good deal lighter than the rest of the record.

Things are looking up for the hero!

"I Won't Forget" is like Swervedriver covering Unknown Pleasures. Furious stuff! The 3 players rock with near-abandon here, the guitar chords slashing, the drums rattling, the bass popping. It's another emotional ride but this time there's a sense that things are going to work out. With a Hoodoo Gurus-esque guitar solo near the end, the cut bounces ahead.

"Home" with those delightful, almost warm, harmonies wraps things up. The guitar -- is there a mandolin here too? -- is more forward in the mix and it's a sense of the furious being soothed that greets a listener here. The drama of the rest of the record resolved.

For a moment.

Domestic Disturbances from The Jet Age is out 12 January 2012 from Sonic Boomerang Records.


The Jet Age are playing an all ages record release show at Comet Ping Pong in D.C. on Friday, December 9, 2011. Details on the link or click on the official web page for The Jet Age.