Upon first glance it might be easy to overlook Fearless Records’ newest band the Static Jacks. With some of the label’s heavy hitters such as Breathe Carolina, Every Avenue, blessthefall, and Mayday Parade each dropping albums over the course of just a few months, the New Jersey indie rock act has the challenge of keeping their debut full length If You’re Young from getting lost in the shuffle. Hard work is something that has come natural for the Static Jacks thus far; the band self-released three EPs between 2007 and 2009 while touring and slowly building a fan base and becoming a staple of the New Jersey rock scene. Now with an opportunity to reach a larger audience and make a name from themselves amongst the broader rock landscape, it’s safe to say the band isn’t taking their shot lightly.
It’s difficult to gauge just how good If You’re Young really is. Upon first listen, my immediate reaction was “oh great, another British influenced American indie rock band — just what the world needs.” Then I listened a second time. And a third. Before long, I was spinning the album regularly and it was apparent that there was more to this album than meets the eye. Sure, there’s the obvious British pop-rock influence on the surface, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find a number of different sounds playing into the record whether it be the garage rock feel of tracks like “Blood Pressure” or the punk vibe of “Into the Sun”. At its heart, If You’re Young is a pop record, searching for its identity and managing to find it, albeit in short doses, throughout its twelve-track journey.
The album’s opener “Defend Rosie” sets things off as an up tempo, hand clapping, foot stomping, rock anthem, highlighted by vocalist Ian Devaney’s sing/shout vocals. Devaney’s style is one that regularly finds his voice on the brink of breaking, pushing itself just far enough that you clearly hear the emotion, then backing off right at the moment you think he might lose it. Singing “We had so much time to get this shit together / We didn’t even try / If this is how you want it, that can be arranged,” Devaney captures the youthful frustrations that permeate If You’re Young within just a matter of minutes. Peppy lead single “Girl Parts” follows, keeping the pace alive with chirpy guitars laying the backdrop for the song’s dual vocals celebrating/lamenting a shallow physical relationship.
While Delaney tends to steal the spotlight on a good portion of the album, the guitar work of Henry Kaye and Michael Sue-Poi shouldn’t go unmentioned. Their dance-inducing lines on “My Parents Lied” make for one of the more captivating moments of the album. The band’s ability to capture mood is felt heavily on the brilliantly titled songs “Sonata (Maybe We Can Work it Out)” and “Walls (We Can’t Work it Out)”. The former is a hopeful and mellow indie number that transitions sharply into the aggressive and angry “Walls” with an appropriate discomfort. Capturing the pain of young heartbreak, the music tells the story well enough even if Delaney wasn’t singing “Babe, honey, darling, sweetheart, forget my name / My heart’s dead anyway”.
Unfortunately, the latter half of the album tapers off as the band fails to find a suitable landing place and the tracks begin to blur together. Still, “This is Me Dancing” and “Drano-Ears” show enough promise in the form of solid pop numbers to warrant repeated listens. It’s clear from If You’re Young that the Static Jacks have a good thing going, even if their full potential hasn’t been realized quite yet. Ian Devaney is poised to become a voice to listen to in the indie scene and if the band is able to piece together the flashes of brilliance found on their debut into a full length with a little less filler, the Static Jacks could be a force to be reckoned with.