Because I'm of a certain era, I fucking love Jets to Brazil. It's Blake Schwarzenbach's (Jawbreaker) grown-up indie band. It's also his dad's classic rock band, his Neil Diamond band, his spacey drug-fueled afternoon band. It's a lot of things.
When they first came together, it was all about Blake's new band, man. A bunch of people got pissed because it wasn't Unfun pt. 2, but like most bands with cult followings, we can understand if the new band's target demographic is a little different. Artists like to art in new and exciting ways.
They came out with an album Orange Rhyming Dictionary, and that title says a lot about it. Not in some pretentious way, but in that way where a high school band has a real shit name but somehow put together one great song. That's this album, but it's maybe 4 songs. Some songs were just so blandly rock fueled in a way that was nearly an admonishment of Jawbreaker. Other songs were so fucking Jawbreaker people wondered if they were written for that never-recorded final album. It's hard to imagine I Typed for Miles being for anything other than a Jawbreaker album. Generally, the album is inconsistent, with some pointed, angular rock songs and some rolling dark rock, capped by a folk song.
Their second album came out some years later and it just sucks. People are open to their opinions, sure, but guh. What a bland writing-a-school-report-on-a-Sunday-afternoon album this album is. It starts off with a song called You're Having the Time of My Life and I'm already asleep. Don't get me wrong, there's a massive aesthetic appeal to this album - it's technically proficient, a very grown-up album. It's just that it sounds like the album Blake felt like he should be doing, rather than the album he should have been making. It doesn't sound forced, it just sounds languid with really cliche pop moments. Lyrically, sure, Blake's always had that down, but even his words just sound boring. The album ends with a slow-build song called, what, Orange Rhyming Dictionary? What? Like the first album? A holdover? Title song didn't make the cut? It's a decent song, but whatever. Funny thing is, as fucking boring as this album is, it's nice to have on in the background. It's a lazy afternoon. It's a writing-a-school-report-on-a-Sunday-afternoon album, right, so it comes with all that entails. It's fall and I'm 12 and it's cool outside and other kids are playing football but I'm at my warm desk sitting in a sunbeam. It's boring, but familiar, like a hug from your racist grandmother. I won't ask for it, but it's kind of nice when you're there.
Third album comes around and people seem to hate it. I'm indifferent. Having been innoculated to lazy Blake, this album slipped away like a one-hit wonder's third album. I mean, yeah, it's fine. A little more solidly built, a little exploratory in a way Blake's projects had never done. Wish List is pretty catchy and Rocket Boy was the first thing that came to mind when 45 started talking shit on North Korea. As a whole, though, this album? Muh.
I was working on an article about child abuse and realized I'd been listening to Jets to Brazil on repeat most of the day. It was perfect for writing. That doesn't make them a great band, or their albums great albums, because they were good as writing-about-child-abuse music and that's not often a great sign. Generally, a good writing album is inoffensive, familiar, bland, and a little upbeat. That's these albums, hooboy.
In case it's not clear (heh), I fucking love Jets to Brazil because I'm 36, started listening to them half my life ago, first saw them when I was 21 and all mushy and shit, have heard Chinatown 10,000 times and love Jawbreaker more than you loved your first dog. I think Sweet Avenue is one of the single best songs ever written in the history of music. I've let out more rage to I Typed for Miles than an otherwise mentally healthy person should have.
I just dislike about 70% of their songs.
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Sunday, January 21, 2018
I got this on my Google Music feed. It's suggesting albums, since I like the band Glossary and have listened to them a bunch on Music and Youtube. I know a few of these - Cory Branan, Two Cow Garage, Joey Kneiser, but am not familiar with the others. These are country-ish bands, ones that I would certainly put in the realm of modern Americana. If you've experienced a lazy summer day in the States, you could probably get down with any of these.
What I was surprised about were the themes present here in these album covers. Cory Branan's 80s clothed-in-the-tub album cover aside, two feature dilapidated rural housing (and one run down motel), three have children in some sort of rustic American dress (I'd argue shirtless and jeans is the most American childhood dress ever, even more than the kid literally draped in the American flag) and a solid 80% are in either black or white or some sepia shade. From a marketing perspective, if I was targeting the run-down America backwater old-timey memory of childhood, it'd look like this, too.
Well, good for them, because it worked. This Lauderdale album sounds like the Drive-by Truckers and it's great. It'll wear out its welcome, certainly, but at least I have some other sepia albums to wander into. Thanks, Google, for finding me bands I like that sound like other bands I like and yet wouldn't have heard of, if not for your crazy algorithm of truth.
I'm now wondering if Google can do some sort of social engineering and filter some of this good stuff into people's Kenny Chesney-or-whoever-the-fuck-is-on-the-radio stations playing that version of country that's really just sloppy pop with twang and stereotypes. I just heard this band and song for the very first time, but tell me this isn't ten times better than any song on the 'country' radio stations: https://youtu.be/MLUFq5qeXNA
On another note, it's been 14 years since Hot Snakes put out an album? Is that right? As with most of Hot Snakes, I'm not sure I'm digging this, but I love it in principle. Other new releases from bands I'd forgotten about, like Yo La Tengo, The Decemberists, The Go Team, Calexico, the Shins. Think there's an Okkervil River in there, too. What is this, 2003?