Here's the secret to The Jet Age: We're hearing the inner battle between frontman Eric Tischler's dueling loves of The Who and My Bloody Valentine. Usually, thanks to the ferocious drumming of Pete Nuwayser, it seems as if The Who more often than not wins that fight. This time out, on next week's Destroy.Rebuild, it could very well be a draw. That's not to say that Pete's drumming is not superb, nor that bassist Greg Bennett's bass-runs are not worthy of comparison to The Ox but, rather, that Tischler seems to have more successfully blended his musical influences on the new album. There's something seamless and organic and "whole" about Destroy.Rebuild, and if the record is not as edgy -- or maybe twitchy? -- as this trio's been in the past, that's cool 'cause they might finally find a lot of new fans with this one, perhaps their strongest record yet.
But in making something that seems so much more accessible, have the band members somehow sacrificed anything? No, 'cause the relationship drama of Tischler's lyrics is more refined, the drumming and bass playing more integrated with what Eric's doing as the singer-guitarist, and the leader-man himself has also held back on the effects pedals, or simply more strategically employed them. If last year's Jukebox Memoir was the bold risk-taker, the band jumping genres with glee, and 2012's Domestic Disturbances the obvious fulfillment of the Jet Age sound of the earlier records, then this album is the beginning of a new era for this three-piece.
Destroy.Rebuild sounds like The Jet Age and yet I still can't quite put my finger on the crucial differences this time around. Instead, as I replay these 11 cuts, I sort of see new angles of this band's music, angles that may have been there all along.
"Don't Make a Sound" and "I Wrote You This Song" certainly feel familiar -- that awesome mix of strum-and-clang that these cats can do so well -- but then we get some new flavors in "It Always Starts With a Bang" and "It Cuts Both Ways", two tunes that serve as slow-burn rave-ups. "In Time, All Want Will Cease" sorta perfects the format as the guitars ripple and one can guess that Tischler's been listening to some Ride lately. "Who Can I Sing This Song For" sways comfortably and then "Hand Upon The Throttle" kicks in and suddenly a listener is caught in a hard, deep groove that Nuwayser and Bennett command admirably. The song is all theirs and we're off in vaguely near-fusion territory, an even bolder move than anything on Jukebox Memoir (2014).
And, like on every Jet Age record, there's a tune that makes me stop in my tracks and go "Wow, that's one of my favorite Jet Age songs ever!" The nearly perfect Isn't Anything cast-off of "I Can't Breathe" is more than an MBV imitation. Thanks to Tischler's exquisite guitar solo, the song acts as an expansion on what other bands would see as the shoegazer template. Just an impressive, impressive piece of music.
"I Figured It Out" refreshingly calls to mind older Jet Age cuts while the wonderfully-titled "The World Is Bigger Than My Two Hands" updates what Ted Leo used to do in Chisel -- there's that Who influence again! -- with a nod in the direction of pre-Sire Husker Du -- another legendary power trio! -- with the sort of fuzzy rave-out that Swervedriver were so good at pulling off. Not for nothing was Adam Franklin on the last Jet Age record.
Destroy.Rebuild closes with the "When The Levee Breaks"-isms of "Epilogue", Bennett and Nuwayser doing their best Jones and Bonham approximations here. Far removed from those old, blues-y Zep roots, these are 3 guys largely functioning in the indie rock world and bravely pushing at the edges of the box.
By sticking to a relatively basic format -- the personal, first-person lyrics, the Moon drums, the Geezer Butler bass -- the three members of The Jet Age have sort of created their own genre over time. Criminally underrated, even here in D.C., Tischler, Bennett, and Nuwayser have made one of their most seamless albums this time out.
To a casual fan, The Jet Age sound like...The Jet Age again. Great. To the hardcore, it's like they've discovered the perfect mixture of each of the three elements in their formula. Things sound new here and Destroy.Rebuild is nothing if not a refinement of the essentials of this group.
Destroy.Rebuild by The Jet Age will be out in a week. The band is playing the At The Edge of the Sea festival soon. If you're in the U.K., check that out. If not, make time to see them when they play D.C. in a few weeks at their record release show in Bethesda. Follow the band on their official website.