The Adventures of Jet
The press release claims that "The Adventures of Jet's Muscle is, at its core, a concept album...the songs on Muscle follow a central theme; in this case, muscle cars and the idea that with the newfound freedom that comes along with owning a set of wheels during adolescence comes the realization that those carefree days are fleeting." The casual listener won't notice this supposed concept, mostly because the risky decision of placing a singer with heavily stylized pronunciation low in the mix with cymbal-happy drums and a prominent, breezy organ in the same register as the singer's voice -- consistently the same prominent, breezy organ, consistently in the same register -- makes the lyrics largely inaudible. But okay. Giving the band the benefit of the doubt, let's assume that the concept really carries, and let's look back to another album that, at least partially, shares the concept: Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town.
On that record, only one song, "Racing in the Street," deals thematically with cars, but several others, most notably "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and "The Promised Land" at least mention the topic. Putting aside the fact that the Boss was able to deal in one song and some scraps with a topic that The Adventures of Jet needs a whole record to dispatch, let's take a look at the title track: three verses, the last with an extended climax, and each one ending with that unison stop-time riff: "there's a darkness on the e-e-e-e-edge of town." So memorable. I hadn't heard this record in fifteen years and it still stuck with me, somewhere where I couldn't quite pull it up to conscious memory, but it was part of my idea of popular music. It's hard to imagine anything on Muscle sticking like that. How about "Racing in the Street?" That beautiful, organic-sounding organ solo repeated as the song's coda, such delicate musicianship from a record so thematically brutal: "weeeeeee, weedle weedle weeeeeeee...weedle weedle weeeee...weedle weedle wee-eeeeeee..." Well, I suppose the phonetic transcription doesn't do it justice, but by contrast, the same would serve Muscle's keyboards quite accurately.
I suppose this line of reasoning isn't really fair, as not many records would compare favorably to the shining moments of a great rock-n-roll hero in his prime -- although it's every artist's responsibility to take into account their predecessors, especially before they decide to tackle such a powerful archetype as CARS. But the point is that each of these songs is built around a distinct idea that trumps considerations, well worthwhile in The Adventures's case, of originality and variety. The lack of such ideas is what ultimately dooms such a thematic exercise as Muscle. The band might do better to stick to such minor triumphs as "Emily Mazurinsky," an effective piece of Rentals-esque '80s-throwback-keyboard-pop glee that features a keyboard line that's actually fairly clever, and stop masquerading as a band with things on its mind. But I suppose we should let each man choose for himself which muse is more authentic: "I'll be there on time and I'll pay the cost for wanting things that can only be found in the darkness on the edge of town" or "It's like I'm on drugs; I don't feel like myself." (DM)
(Suburban Home Records -- P.O. Box 40757, Denver, CO. 80204; http://www.suburbanhomerecords.com/; The Adventures of Jet -- http://www.adventuresofjet.com/)
A Short Dream
Here's a keyboard-based trio, in the Depeche Mode fashion -- moody pop with lots of hooks. Haven't heard this kind of stuff in awhile, but I like the attitude. The "drums" seem pretty synthesized, and there's a whole lot of what one would expect in this particular style, nothing earth-shattering or totally innovative. Too bad, too, because this genre isn't dead yet, and I'd hoped to see it revived with some new direction. If the Aeffect could move a bit more into the new and out of the old, they might be the next big thing. For some reason, I find it difficult to imagine them on-stage doing this, and maybe that's the problem for me. It seems just a bit too canned. I don't think a trio could pull it off without a great deal of CPU assistance. Add some personnel and take it on the road, boys. I'll be at the show. (BW)
(Fueled by Ramen Records -- P.O. Box 12563, Gainesville, FL. 32604; http://www.fueledbyramen.com/; The Aeffect -- http://www.theaeffect.com/)
The Boys from Brutalsville
So, I popped in Antiseen's latest, The Boys from Brutalsville, with absolutely no expectations. And it turns out that the supposed "Scourge of the Carolinas" has created a decent metal disc, which, coming from me, is really saying something. The CD has the Southern toughness of Pantera coupled with the raw dirtiness of Mötörhead, as well as the short-but-sweet-ness of the Ramones.
Jeff Clayton sounds like Lemmy Kilmister sans the British accent. He has that barely-trying, almost-talking quality that makes Lemmy instantly recognizable. Joe Young, Doug Canipe, and Sir Barry Hannibal form a backing band that displays influences of classic rock, blues, and, of course, metal. They create a solid driving wall of sound that is both simplistic and complex, and most importantly, each song is distinct, with its own set of riffs and drum lines. The occasional infusion of piano and organ by Jamie Hoover not only sounds cool, but also shows that the piano is an extremely versatile instrument. It can be used to create mood in any type of song.
The cover of The Ramones' "Commando" not only sounds great, but it meshes perfectly with the rest of the record. The band does what is always necessary when covering a song -- they make it their own. To the unknowing listener, this song could easily pass for one written by the band for the record. All in all, The Boys from Brutalsville rocks. It's more of a "traditional" sounding metal CD -- no sampling, no computer enhancement, just straightforward rock -- and that sort of thing is hard to find these days, so this disc should have a welcome place on your CD shelf. (CM)
(TKO Records -- 3126 W. Cary St. #303, Richmond, VA. 23221; http://www.tkorecords.com/; Antiseen -- http://www.antiseen.com/)
Atom and His Package
Attention! Blah Blah Blah.
Atom and His Package are pretty much the musical equivalent of an Onion article: you can glance at song titles like "The Palestinians Are Not The Same Thing As The Rebel Alliance, Jackass." and "Dear Atom, You Do Not Want Children. Love, Atom" and glean about 90% of what the song has to offer. On Attention! Blah Blah Blah., one-man band Atom Goren hits the occasional bullseye, like when he rather impressively manages to turn the title "I'm Downright Amazed At What I Can Destroy With Just A Hammer" into a credible chorus. For the most part, though, he's tapped out at a single idea per song and then simply fills in the blanks for the next two minutes or so. It's all intellect and no emotion (which is probably for the best in the case of "Does Anybody Else In This Room Want To Marry His Or Her Own Grandmother?"), so once the joke's gone, it's gone, baby, and all that's left is some modestly tuneful synth pop with heavy metal guitars and the image of a brainily logorrheic guy sticking Scotch-tape moustaches on his TV to make himself smile. I'll bet that gets old quickly, too. (MH)
(Hopeless Records -- P.O. Box 7495, Van Nuys, CA. 91409; http://www.hopelessrecords.com/; Atom and His Package -- http://www.atomandhispackage.com/)