Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Jukebox Memoir Is Out Today: A Review Of The New Jet Age Record

It's been more than 2 years since their last record, the excellent Domestic Disturbances, and The Jet Age are now back with Jukebox Memoir.

The Jet Age -- Eric Tischler, Greg Bennett, and Pete Nuwayser -- have delivered something at once familiar and new. Listening to this one, I kept thinking of The Wedding Present, a band that The Jet Age have toured with, and the leap from stuff like Bizarro to Saturnalia in the space of a few years. Like Gedge and his mates, The Jet Age have a very easily identifiable sound -- that thing that makes them sound like The Jet Age and no one else, despite those numerous worthy influences peeking through -- but they have changed that sound much like David Gedge managed to radically change the Wedding Present sound...without losing any of the Wedding Present sound.

Tischler has done something similar here. He's managed to expand the rock-solid and solidly rocking Jet Age sound -- think "I Want To Touch You Again" from Domestic Disturbances or the earlier "I Said 'Alright'" from What Did You Do During The War, Daddy? -- into some new variation of the indie-rock template that encompasses...classic Stevie Wonder, for example.

I'm talking of the wonderful "Music" from Jukebox Memoir. From its "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" guitar riff opening, to its quotes from "Isn't She Lovely" in the coda, the tune is a marvel. Quite possibly one of the best tracks these guys have produced and I say that as someone who said that about the entirely harder and punkier "Left For Dead" from the last album.

As Eric Tischler explained to me:

I thought just embracing these styles would help us assimilate them, so I wasn't feeling like I was tiptoeing around these influences I want to reference. You can quote me on this.

And what The Jet Age are doing in that tune gets at the whole point of Jukebox Memoir as an album: acknowledge the influences, try a few on for size, and then kick things off into power trio overdrive. Less a loose concept album than some of their earlier releases, Jukebox Memoir works best as a collection of cuts from diverse genres. Here, on this record, The Jet Age travel in new directions -- jazzy funk on "Chocolate Cake" and "Booty" or full-on shoegaze on "Come Lie Down" with backing vocals from Swervedriver's Adam Franklin and Ride's Mark Gardener -- while still holding onto the familiar -- opener "I Can't Turn Around" which sounds like the best tunes on every Jet Age album.

Thoughtfully on the lyric sheet, the 3 guys in The Jet Age have provided what their influences were on each track -- opener "I Can't Turn Around" lists no influence as if to modestly highlight their own sound -- and some of these are helpful in adjusting to the new colors in the Jet Age palette.

To list The Who on "Free Ride" is sort of a no-brainer; these guys are huge fans of The Who and not for nothing is Tischler shown reading a Townshend book in that pic up there. But, in this case, it's a specific nod to what inspired another standout cut on this record. The Jet Age are filtering the pieces of a classic Who cut like "Naked Eye" into something new. "Free Ride" is a fantastic song and it enters another stratosphere entirely when Pete Nuwayser goes reliably apeshit on the kit. When Mike Myers inevitably makes a silly Keith Moon bio-pic, maybe Nuwayser can be the guy on the soundtrack actually playing the drums while Wayne Campbell mimes like Moonie?

A few pics from the last concert I saw in D.C. before my move to Hong Kong: The Jet Age in December 2011 (with Deathfix opening up -- their second ever gig!)...

"Dissolve To The Bedroom" lists Zep and Bowie as influences but what about that opening riff which sounds like the opening guitar figure from "First Of The Gang To Die" by Morrissey? Would Tischler be loathe to list Moz as influence? Not sure. But that hook works just as well here as it did for the God from Manchester. For "You Want To Dance", the lyric sheet cites Duran Duran as an influence -- there's a tiny bit of those guys here circa "Union Of The Snake" -- but I heard late period Gang of Four or maybe even XTC pre-"Mayor of Simpleton" -- maybe something like "Funk Pop A Roll"? As always, bassist Greg Bennett is the unsung hero of the band like Entwistle was for The Who. Bennett adds jazzy hues in spots and strong-and-solid bass muscle in others. Some of his very best work for the band is on Jukebox Memoir. Expanding The Jet Age sound has pushed the bass to a more important position on this album.

"Like A Bell" has a hint of The Faces, yes, but it also softens the hard edges of earlier Jet Age tunes. At once familiar and somehow different, as an album closer it points in yet another new direction for the band.

But next to "Music", I keep going back to "Horizon Burns". Referring back to the lyric sheet, I don't quite hear The Verlaines on this one, but maybe there is a bit of Tischler's earlier The Hurricane Lamps here. Sounds more to me like Grant Hart making New Day Rising-era Husker Du do a cover of an early Talking Heads tune. Whatever the influences, it's a scorcher of a cut. I can't wait to hear them do this live when they tour.

Back in my review of the last Dot Dash record -- a band whose debut was produced by The Jet Age's Eric Tischler -- I tried to stress how I preferred a solid collection of individual cuts over most concept albums. By that standard, Jukebox Memoir is a masterpiece in the Jet Age catalog. That's not to slight the earlier concept album structure of their previous records but to stress the ease of mastering diverse styles that The Jet Age have shown here.

Jukebox Memoir is more Odds And Sods than Quadrophenia, to refer back to a clear fave of Tischler and his crew. And that's not necessarily a bad thing when you think about it. If this set of songs doesn't tell a story of suburban angst like Domestic Disturbances did, it instead catalogs the wide range of influences that shaped these guys who grew up -- like me -- in an era of great music.

And for even attempting to pay tribute to D.C.'s go-go scene, these guys get enormous props.

The ultimate mix-tape as played by a D.C. area indie band, this new record from The Jet Age is sure to have something to engage old fans and new followers.

Jukebox Memoir is out now -- today! -- and you can get more details on the band's official website here and, in the U.S., you can order it on iTunes here.