Jets to Brazil, ‘Perfecting Loneliness’ (Jade Tree) ; The Get Up Kids, ‘On a Wire’ (Vagrant)
Oh-oh, growing up. Jets to Brazil’s Blake Schwarzenbach was the auteur of ’90s San Francisco emo progenitors Jawbreaker, a Mission District Morrissey for a generation of sensitive kids who idolized his slow-motion ruminations on dating, sex, and love. But now Schwarzenbach’s over 30, and on Jets to Brazil’s third album, he seems to have noticed that his sort of fame doesn’t pay the health-club bill.
“When the measure of your work / Is the measure of your worth /Then you better make it work,” he sings on “The Frequency,”Perfecting Loneliness‘ sprawling opener. Schwarzenbach looks at his new hometown of New York with wide-eyed bitterness, complaining about craven hipsters and time-sucking careers while celebrating the “sugar high” he gets from street life. Yowling like a trebly mashup of Joey Ramone, Cracker’s David Lowery, and the dude from Teenage Fanclub, he can still eviscerate a relationship with Swiss precision. He paints a blue-balled, not-tonight row with the ol’ lady, singing, “The tears are crashing on her breast / The burning bed is out again.” Less successfully, he attempts social commentary on “Disgrace,” earnestly noting that even with 200 channels, nothing’s on TV. Take that, Time Warner! But on balance, Schwarzenbach’s insights elevate Jets’ above-average indie rock to something quite special.
Lawrence, Kansas’ Get Up Kids sold boatloads of records to young’uns more concerned with the ups and downs of the mosh pit than the peaks and valleys of love. But On a Wire, their third album, takes a giant step away from the Superchunk-biting sound of earlier records like 1999’s Something to Write Home About and toward lush acoustic pop. The move has alienated many of their fans, who’ve shown little interest in tracks like “Overdue,” an acid look at impending fatherhood in which singer Matthew Pryor vows not to repeat his dad’s mistakes. The kids’ loss is the Kids’ gain, though, as tracks like “Stay Gone” and “High ast he Moon” are catchy, finger-snappin’ strolls through a landscape etched with disappointment and hope. Transforming into the Bring-Down Men may prove costly audience-wise, but the Get Up Kids are catching on to something Schwarzenbach’s known for a while: Getting older doesn’t have to mean getting old.