Jets to Brazil
Four Cornered Night
Tuesday, September 26 2000, 8:15 AM
New York's Jets to Brazil is one answer to the question, "What do you do after you've done punk?" For vocalist Blake Schwarzenbach, singer/guitarist/lyricist of the increasingly popular and influential defunct '90s punk band Jawbreaker, the answer is to slow down the pace, compose denser lyrics, and veer off towards the singer/songwriter mode. Keyboards, cellos, and tambourines evince a broader musical palette; this is where Jawbreaker was headed on its major label swan song Dear You.
Jawbreaker was fast and loud; volume can cover up a lot. Slowing down reveals the limitations of Schwarzenbach's vocals; with his lack of range and limited expressiveness, his voice isn't up to the more ambitious songs he's written. Many Jawbreaker lyrics read like pages torn from a journal; the lyrics here are more abstract and obscure. Combined with more considered music, these intelligent songs nevertheless drag on and on and on in the manner of a Randy Newman or more recent Elvis Costello album.
There is a distinct lack of urgency in Jets to Brazil's music; certain riffs and textures briefly capture your attention, but they never really hold it. There's nothing totally distinct about this band's music; it's a welcome direction, but they don't perform it with much flair or immediacy. There's just no excitement, and by excitement I don't mean speed (is there anything more redundant in the year 2000 than short/fast/loud rules?), but other things too, like density or drive. In some ways Four Cornered Night is a deliberate pop move, except that it doesn't have enough pop in it. There's nothing here to grab you, and yet Jets' grassroots popularity absolutely mystifies me. Well-intentioned, but politely dull. To use a word fit for their lyric sheet: lugubrious.
Four Cornered Night is a Jade Tree release