JetLab strikes me more as a project than a band. It is a giant, musical crucible where rules don't seem to apply and nothing is excluded - and the general rule of JetLab is "go ahead and throw it in and let's see what comes out." But what else would expect from band that started out as a bet?
Last year Elle Crash (Lovely Crash, The Fairmount Girls) and Nick Barrows (4 Track Allstars, Eagle to Squirrel, Jack Burton Overdrive) made a wager that they could find a way to meld their separate and unique musical backgrounds into some kind of amalgamation of bluesy-rock and electronic pop. Later, like the legendary Voltron, when the final ingredient was added in the person of Dave Welsh (Jack Burton Overdrive, Bone Nut) on drums, JetLab was formed.
For the past few months, the band has been working withMike Montgomery (Ampline) at Candyland Studios and are preparing to release their first album.
While Elle Crash carries a substantial pedigree for sultry, soulful high-energy rock in the local scene, Barrows comes from a place more geared toward free-form expressionism. When he's not making music, Barrows also moonlights as an anachronistic beat poet, working with the likes of local writer Mark Flanigan.
These diverse influences and styles are immediately apparent and, in each of the ten tracks on the album, it's an interesting game to play to see which of these larger-than-life personalities dominates the musical conversation for a brief moment in time. Sometimes, however, in songs like "Please," Barrows' jagged-edge and Crash's smooth contours seem to fall into a lovely parity.
"Fire" is a wonderful example of Barrow's free-verse, performed within a swirling, serpentine melody that sounds like an early garage recording by Beck or Talking Heads.
The first single to hit the streets is a synth-pop tune called "Dance Floor." This track has a delightfully up-beat pulse to it that fits perfectly with the title. There is a great deal of polish as well as energy to this piece and serves as a wonderful introduction to what JetLab is all about.
Continuing with that high-energy theme is the song "Shadows," which I can't listen to without thinking of They Might Be Giants because of the amusing effects put on Barrow's vocals, while "What" has a delectable retro-funk soul and a bass line that comes straight out of Sugar Hill Records.
In the interest of full disclosure, Nick and I have known each other since we were old enough to hold a pint glass. So, regarding the song "Old Days" --- yes, I am vain enough to think that this song is about me. Maybe not directly, but I'd like to think I was in Nick's head somewhere when he wrote it. However, not just out of pure sentiment, but because it is a well-crafted song, "Old Days" is my favorite of the week.
Mostly what you'll get from JetLab is a quest for balance. Whether that comes in the form of the outspoken exasperation of "Unstable" or the soulful self-empowerment of "Up," the music is a loose and free-feeling jam among friends seeking a common goal.
Occasionally, as with any good jam, you find that the hardest part is finding a place to stop. This happens in the songs "Happiness" and "Fire," but it is certainly not such a significant enough problem as to detract from the rest of the album.
Also, as with any good jam, the studio recording, no matter how well-done, is just simply inadequate to capture the magic of the live performance. So, I strongly encourage you to make an effort to check out JetLab on stage at a club near you.
JetLab will be celebrating the release of their new album with a live show on Friday, November 28 at Southgate House Revival.