Get Born

(Elektra; 2003)

By Amir Nezar | 9 October 2007

Oh, Aussies. It's kind of like they all woke up 20 years too late, listened to some garage and The Who, and then decided they'd try and catch on to the trend. Only the trend was over a few decades ago. You can't blame them for trying, though. Or maybe you can, given such acts as The Vines in recent years.

Well, it's all a matter of how well you do it. The (non-Australian) Exploding Hearts' Guitar Romantic was such shameless 80's punk and power-pop throwback material, mixed in with the greatest Clash ripoffs that I can remember in recent years, that my parents wondered where they'd missed these guys. 'Course, when I told them they had just emerged this year they were stunned.

Now take the same situation, only apply it to the 60's, and you've got Jet. The only other notable difference is attitude. The Exploding Hearts ripped into infectious power-pop hooks with irreverent, pilfering joy, so much of it, in fact, that I didn't give a damn that they didn't have an ounce of originality. These guys were just spontaneous and wanted to have some rockin' fun, and I certainly can't slam a band for that. It didn't hurt that they were also extremely talented.

Jet are also entirely unoriginal. If you're expecting an innovative album, then stop reading now and save your money for the next Liars release. But Jet's attitude is not as carefree and unstudied as The Exploding Hearts'. There's a lot of hard work here, but through the entire album there is a tinge of planning to it. While it doesn't smack you immediately, a whiff of posturing is almost everywhere present.

That said, I still like this album a whole lot. And when it comes down to it, reviving The Who isn't such a bad thing; rock is not too far from being on a respirator, and kids are largely being brought into a music scene that's forgotten it entirely. Jet are the guys who want it to keep on chugging.

The songwriting is decently solid. These guys pack away power-chord hooks like cake, and all told, make for some good fist-pumping fun. The bass lines are by turns decorative and foundational. It's not in these departments that I can find a real fault in the band. The solos are marked, fairly predictable, but executed with an undoubtedly Strokes-ish flare, which is to say, obvious without any metal bombast (ahem, Strays anyone?). They're short, sweet, and fairly simple, which, wouldja guess it, fits in with the greater part of this album. And their drumming is nearly uniformly flawless and interesting.

Where I can fault the band, and will with something short of vengeance, is in their failure to revere their elders while still working in some of their own character. What I hinted at before was predictability; these guys are about as surprising as R. Kelly's latest rape-of-a-minor charge. After the first three stone cold rockers comes the inevitable first ballad, "Look What You've Done," tugging at your heartstrings with enough sentimental crockery to make you want to kick a child. Pulling up the piano and hitting two chord progressions like they meant all the world, the song pulls along with a moping bass and simple percussion. It's not all that awfully executed, and the lyrics, while nothing new, are actually pretty good. But the sheer, enormous predictability of it, the forced heartbreak after songs that are all about rocking, is too much to be taken seriously. Which is what Jet seem to want - for you to take them seriously. I'll tell you it's a bit of a stretch.

Really, the main struggle is this: how much credit do you want to give to a band that has entirely ripped off their elders, taken a ton of 60's rock clichés (lyrics, style, etc) and made a solid, well-executed album out of it? I dunno. If I didn't honestly have a good time listening to them, if I didn't think that "Get What You Need," and "Cold Hard Bitch" were great songs that just didn't belong in this decade, I'd crucify them. Their saving grace is first, in their solid execution. Second, they have two songs here, "Radio Song," and "Timothy," which are also throwbacks, but are different enough from the power-chord fodder that reigns supreme over the rest of this album. Both sound almost indie, and they hint at some semblance of character for Jet. So for now, they'll get by with some modest praise from me; but if they come at me with the same stuff on their next venture, the critical shotgun is coming out.