When Jets to Brazil was formed out of the ashes of bands like Lifetime, Handsome and Jawbreaker, they gained a reputation for being the quintessential emo band before they had even put out a record. But Jets to Brazil isn’t an emo band. Though there is an emotional component to their songs, the Jets are better characterized as indie rock superstars than emotional rockers.
Perfecting Loneliness, the Jets’ third studio album, is a logical extension of their last two records. With the power and vigor of1998’s Orange Rhyming Dictionary and the diverse influences and mellow moments of 2000’s Four Cornered Night, Perfecting Loneliness is a manic record that soars on the merits of upbeat songs and some fine moments of songwriting, but lags on slower, overly brooding songs. Ironically, this album might have the most emo content-lost love laments and contemplations of lonely, snowy nights-of the band’s albums to date, though the overall feel isn’t internally wrenching in the way that great emotional music is.
None of the slow songs have the deep feeling and sentimentality of fan favorite “Sweet Avenue” so they end up very disappointing. This might be OK if they didn’t disappoint for so long, but for some reason, several of the songs on this album are about twice as long as they should be. The lullaby-like “Lucky Charm” would be a great song if it ended after about three and a half minutes, but instead it drones on for over five. It shifts in the middle from a sad lost love song to a message for a specific person, and it’s alienating to listeners. “Rocket Boy” is another depressing, boring song. These songs are out of character for Blake Schwarzenbach, the lyricist and songwriter for the band. Schwarzenbach is usually recognized for his talented word play and deft, unexpected rhyme schemes. He is not known for being boring. It’s like he had a bad break-up and is taking it out on his fans.
But maybe this patch of dullness could have been anticipated. Bassist and backup singer Jeremy Chatelain has been moonlighting as frontman of his own country band Cub Country. Schwarzenbach has been backing him on the pedal steel guitar. While that pedal steel and mellow tone might work for other audiences, the Jets are remiss in bringing it into the studio on Loneliness.
Still, despite the drag, the high points on Loneliness overshadow the lows. It’s a record that doesn’t grab listeners immediately, but tightens down slowly, sinking in.