Formed out of the rubble of the late, lamented Jawbreaker, Jets to Brazil has garnered a reputation as a literate post-punk pop band, and they proved it spades live. Made up of Blake Schwarzenbach from Jawbreaker, Jeremy Chatelain on bass from Handsome, Chris Daly from Texas is the Reason on drums and second guitarist Bryan Maryansky, the band held the crowded room of twenty-somethings in thrall from start to finish. Opening with the driving pop of “You’re Having the Time of My Life” from their new release, Four Cornered Night (Jade Tree), the bands sound—a mixture of Hüsker Dü and Cheap Trick—sounded far more dynamic and passionate live than on record. On record Schwarzenbach sounds eerily like David Lowery from Cracker, but live his voice was more restrained fury, hoarse shouts that mixed well with harmonies from Chatelain. Even when he abandoned his guitar and played keyboards, such as on “One Summer Last Fall,” Blake pounded the keys like a man still possessed by the punk energy that fueled his former band. Much has been made in the press and by fans concerning JTB’s refusal to become “Jawbreaker2,” but that of course is just the bickering of small minds that refuse to allow their heroes to leave them. JTB’s sound draws from a wider spectrum than did Jawbreaker, from the intro of “Time of My Life” that sounds like the beginning of Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” or the Wire-influenced material found on the bands first release “Orange Rhyming Dictionary”. Granted, it might be more radio-friendly than Jawbreaker, a touch smoother perhaps, but it still maintains the sharp lyrical edge and slashing guitar bite that Schwarzenbach made his reputation with.
But to the 300 or so fans that crowded the Echo Lounge, all such distinctions were meaningless—they came to see music that moved them. When the band played “Sea Anemone” they were of one voice. To hear a roomful of people almost drown out the band on the lyrics “Now I’m making out shapes / Like the shower rod-can it take my weight?” is one of those hair on the back of your neck riseup moments—sorta chilling, a sing-along on a song about abandonment and suicide. Guess one expects such in these post-Kurt Cobain days.
The show was opened by Shiner, the hard driving, endlessly touring four piece that were supporting Starless, their new release on Owned and Operated. Even though they had to start before many of the crowd was in the building, they got a great response with music that is somehow at the same time both dreamy and furious. But it was the muscular pop of Blake Schwarzenbach and Jets to Brazil that caused the crowd to bop and sing along, much like their parents might have done to Cheap Trick 20 years ago. And now, as it was then, the kids don’t care so much about what the critics say—they just wanna rock. Jets to Brazil certainly let them do that.