Okay, Friday the 13th might seem like an unlikely day to drop a new album, but maybe the fact that At The End Of The World is album number 7 from The Jet Age should offset any bad juju lurking in this Halloween season.
I think Eric Tischler, front-man of the long-running D.C.-area band, would argue that the current White House resident is scarier than any ghoul or ghost, and he'd be right about that. And, to that end, the new one from The Jet Age has a cover that suggests a political point to some of these new compositions and, while there is some of that here -- the twin title-cuts with their bracketed locations, for example -- Tischler still excels at chronicling the world inside the everyday man, the personal becoming political, as matters of heart and home become grand things.
All that being said, At The End Of The World is, perhaps, this band's easiest record to jump into, seeing as how it's NOT a concept album, per se. While 2014's Jukebox Memoir, reviewed by me here, seemed the "Fun" outlier in the band's catalog, it was also an indication that Tischler was broadening his focus and beginning to divorce himself of the very Townshend-like need to couch things in a narrative shell. So, while At The End Of The World seems to largely exist on its own as a collection of individual songs, it serves the purpose of being the Who's Next to the band's earlier attempts at Quadrophenia, if you get my meaning. And, somehow, the material has lost none of its heft through this approach.
If "The Ice Is Cracked" suggests a frantic undertow roiling underneath it all, the more familiar "I Had A Dream" reassures that this band -- Tischler, bassist Greg Bennett, and drummer Pete Nuwayser -- still have things under control, as the cut fits what we expect -- and want -- from every Jet Age record. So, while "Tied To The Mast" charts a new path via some nearly-pretty hooks, the churning "The Glow Won't Fade" marries a Nuggets-era kind of recorded chaos with Tischler's comfortable Who-nods. Similarly, "Your Sweet Nothings" sees the band return, if only furtively, to the funk-pop tributes of the Jukebox Memoir (2014) record, before "A Field Of Green" shatters the mood, Tischler working in a few guitar roars that suggest nothing so much as highlights from the superb Nowehere (1990) from Ride. Similarly, the woozy "Which Part's The Dream?" indicates that no matter how much Tischler looks to The Who, he still yearns to be in a shoegaze band.
And, at his best, Tischler manages to corral an undeniably potent force in this band -- not for nothing was his previous group called The Hurricane Lamps -- with Bennett and Nuwayser next to him. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the magnificent sonic-riot of "The Script", a cut which, anchored near the end of the record, serves as a rich stew of all of the influences that have shaped this group over the last 11 years or so. Because if At The End Of The World is anything, it's a nice return to the styles from the earlier years of this band, Tischler and crew sounding nearly loose and improvisational here, despite the necessarily grim bookend tunes, and the album's title. For if the last album proper from The Jet Age, 2015's magisterial Destroy. Rebuild, reviewed by me here, was the band's big push to try on new, Important lyrical concerns -- "I Can't Breathe", a standout in that regard -- this one serves as sign of the band's mature ability to harness sonic power and sharp lyrical concerns outside of a rigid concept album structure, and without being too heavy-handed about things.
So, yeah, to circle back to the review's title, the glow hasn't faded here; if anything, The Jet Age sound more in command than ever before. And At The End Of The World, then, is surely proof that they are comfortable diverging from their own formula, however slightly, in pursuit of something elusive that Tischler's guitar slashes at, Bennett's bass counts down to, and Nuwayer's drum-hits attempt to beat into submission. Like Tischler's lyrical protagonists, The Jet Age are constantly straining against their own self-imposed shackles, and the glory for a listener is in that tension, the moments of its release, and the spaces in-between all that.
At The End Of The World is out now. More details via the band's official Facebook page.