The Upshot: The sound of a supremely confident indie-rock band putting forth engaging melodies, shatter-resistant rhythms and agile arrangements as it enters a fresh new phase.
BY FRED MILLS
DC-area trio The Jet Age serves up album numero six, marking the culmination of a rather prolific period of performing and recording, which yielded both 2012’s masterful Domestic Disturbances (a kind of rock opera about love, marriage, alienation and romantic redemption) and last year’s equally fine Jukebox Memoir (also thematic, but that time zeroing in sonically on some of songwriter/guitarist Eric Tischler’s influences, like The Who, Small Faces, Swervedriver, Ride, the Stones and the Verlaines). Point of fact, “conceptual” has long been one of Tischler’s trademarks, as befits a gent for whom Pete Townshend represents a spiritual mentor—the punk meets the godfather, so to speak. 2010’s In “Love” dealt with the scars wrought by the libido, for example, and as our reviewer noted at the time, it marked the trio’s “decisively come into their own as purveyors of some of the brainiest, brawniest pop around, and Tischler [also hitting] an impressive new level as a literate, provocative songwriter.” Meanwhile, 2008’s What Did You Do During the War, Daddy? found Tischler & Co. in a prior rock opera mode, charting a contemporary political fantasy amid a set of quiet/loud mondo distorto jangly indie garage pop songs.”
Enter the remarkably potent Destroy, Rebuild which, per its title, is the sound of a band breaking out of its (self-) perceived conceptual straitjacket. Tischler says as much in his current band bio, noting how previously he “was increasingly distracted by the desire to write ‘types’ of songs and that maybe, after a string of ‘rock operas,’ I was shortchanging the emotional core of the songwriting” and adding that Jukebox Memoir was therefore and attempt to get those urges out his system and rediscover his songwriting voice.
That he has, in spades. Along with bassist Greg Bennett and drummer Pete Nuwayser, Tischler has crafted an 11-song tour de force rife with engaging melodies, shatter-resistant rhythms and inventive, agile arrangements. True, the aforementioned Mr. Behind Blue Eyes is never too far from the Tischler toolbox, as evidenced on tracks like “It Cuts Both Ways” (a yearning, rippling number cut from Who Sell Out pop cloth—watch out for those massive midsong power chords, though!) and “Hand Upon the Throttle” (which boasts Moon-y thumping from drummer Nuwayser and a kind of “Underture”-like twinned guitar/bass riff). Elements of Tischler’s beloved Flying Nun bands also surface, per Jet Age tradition, including the jangly, Verlaines-like “Don’t Make A Sound” and the jetpack riffing that powers “I Wrote You This Song,” bringing to mind vintage Clean.
Still, there’s something fresh going on here with the trio that makes it far, far more than the sum of its influences. Referring again to “IWYS”: the tune goes through a complex series of sonic changes, including a delightfully gnarly wah-wah solo and an out-of-the-blue bah-bah-ba-bah vocal harmony break; it also is one of Tischler’s purest and most straightforward lyrical evocations of how love, and the memory thereof, can be eternal. “I wrote this song so you’d know it hadn’t been so long,” sings the vocalist, “that I could forget how it was when we first met.” (It’s enough to make me want to become a songwriter, just so I could say the same thing to my love of four decades.) Similarly, “In Time, All Want Will Cease” benefits from an agile, waltz-time sway set in motion by the rhythm section that allows the tune room to breathe, and in turn frees Tischler to explore textural shifts, moving easily from dreamy to brawny to psychedelic as he also muses upon the nature of dreams and ideals (“Seduced and betrayed, by my own will I’m captured/ Come, be still and talk with me about the things you hope will be”).
Ultimately, Destroy, Rebuild lives up to its own dreams and ideals, the sound of a band fully aware of its own limitations and supremely confident of its ability to push past them. Bravo, lads.
DOWNLOAD: “I Wrote You This Song,” “In Time, All Want Will Cease,” “It Cuts Both Ways”