[2 December 2013]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Burning Jet Black, a four-piece from Santa Monica, California, had its roots in another band with the name of the Whiskey Saints, which was described as being an alt-country outfit. Burning Jet Black as a band, meanwhile, may share the energy of a No Depression group, but it sounds very, very, very urban. I’ve heard a saying that all punks, if they don’t burn out and, like, die before their time, eventually hew the path to country music (Neko Case being a good example; she started out being way punk). Well, it seems that Burning Jet Black has done the opposite thing, going from country to rambunctious quasi-punk, which actually might be a breath of fresh air in some respects. Their latest release, the digital download only Rascals EP – their second – shows the band trying their hand at a variety of styles over the course of five songs to varying degrees of success. Despite its flaws, you can’t say that Rascals isn’t interesting.
Comparing themselves to the likes of Guided By Voices (though I don’t really hear the comparison on this release), the MC5 (more like it), Kings Of Leon (definitely even more like it), Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (sure, I guess), and the Stooges (kind of), Burning Jet Black tackle everything from Southern psychedelic rock (“President”) to poppy punk that owes a passing debt to two-tone ska (“The Brutal Beyond”) to Hives-aping garage rock (“Black Limousine”) to mainstream alt-rock (“Gone” and “Saved”). So, yes, there are a lot of things thrown into the pot here. And that’s what doesn’t work about this EP: listening to it is a little like someone trying on different shirts in a clothing store change room to see if they fit. And that may be a very à propos criticism given that the group did have an entirely different sound and name preceding their turn as Burning Jet Black. What does work is that, save for the slight swan dive in song quality in the two tracks that end the thing, the EP has its share of very consistent and swirling material worthy of many a Bic lighter. “President”, in particular, runs more than five minutes, but every second of the thick, crunchy guitar workout is welcome. And there’s a particular punchy charm to “The Brutal Beyond”. I’d say that, if what I’d described seems like your bag, Burning Jet Black is worthy of keeping an eye on. Once they settle on a style and stick with it, they should generally have the songwriting chops to pull off the transition.