The Upshot: From lo-fi psychedelia to shoegazey power pop, the D.C. outfit is redefining the notion of “power trio.”
BY FRED MILLS
Although the Jet Age’s guitarist and songwriter, Eric Tischler, reportedly never met a concept album he didn’t like, to date he’s had the good sense to stay on the right side—as in, “correct”—of Tommy and steer clear of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway turf. Put another way: In the studio this D.C. area trio has always been more S.F. Sorrow than Kilroy Was Here. Sorry about that, Styx fans.
Intriguingly, then, for their seventh album they decided to ditch for the most part, recurring themes and conceptual through-lines, something they’ve successfully employed on some previous outings. Not that Tischler’s individual songs have turned non-thematic; these guys hail from the brainy/literary tradition wing of rock ‘n’ roll, after all, so At the End of the World has exactly zero percent lunkhead rock on it. But man, they still rawk—in spades.
There is, of course, the none-too-subtle sleeve art to ponder. And Tischler does note up front, in the band’s bio, that certain tunes here were overtly influenced by the events of the past few years that have unfolded since 2015’s masterful Destroy, Rebuild. The opening and closing songs, in fact, bear the respective titles “At the End of the World (US)” and “At the End of the World (Aleppo),” the former an echo-drenched, wall-of-guitars meditation upon the Trumpian apocalypse; the latter, about the nightmare that is Syria, a lengthy (6 ½ minutes) martial stomp, replete with incoming-fire fretbombs reminiscent of The Edge’s strafing in U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky.” And other songs reflect Tischler’s fears for contemporary society and the planet as a whole; he freely admits that the shuddery, darkly psychedelic “Which Part’s the Dream”—the album’s best song, and a powerhouse of dynamics—was inspired by the run-up to the election last year.
Taken as a whole, however, At the End of the World simply slots into that grand rock tradition of observation, outrage, defiance, and rebellion. Patti Smith once told me that art is supposed to reflect the times we live in, the implication being that for all of rock’s power to allow us to escape the stresses of daily life, it still shouldn’t be treated as escapist. From the strummy, Flying Nun-esque power pop of “The Only Difference” (in which Tischler sings, cautiously, “the only difference/ between death and sleep / is that I get to wake up with you/ and I’ll do anything/ to keep this dream coming true”) to the funky, arpeggiated riffage of “The Script” to the blazing shoegaze overdrive—listen for the tremolo—that is “A Field of Green,” these three gents set their controls for the heart of catharsis, hitting it every time.
Seven albums into the game, D.C.’s Jet Age are redefining the notion of what a power trio should look like. And they’re looking pretty good, at that.
DOWNLOAD: “Which Part’s the Dream,” “A Field of Green,” “Your Sweet Nothings”