Irish Times Review 'Once Like A Spark'
GOD, what a gig. I held off writing this week's Noise Annoys until after Jetplane Landing's appearance at Auntie Annies last night, as I 'm reviewing their new album 'Once Like A Spark'.
Having experienced these new songs both on record and live and loud, I can happily conclude that the anglo-Irish outfit are simply one of the best bands around right now. Last night they had the crowd eating out of their sweaty palms as they delivered hit after hit of urgent, catchy, complex and angular rock goodness. It was one of those shows where I couldn't wait to get home to listen to the album again.
After their middling debut LP 'Zero For Conduct', last year's 'Els Quatre Gats' EP was a huge leap forward both in style and impact for the band. The frenzied attack of "Acrimony" and "Lights Out" from that release sign posted the road ahead to their second full-length. Indeed, Jetplane Landing have now built themselves up into an altogether more ferocious animal. With guitarist Cahir from Clearshot as a fully fledged fourth member, there's a lot more muscle to their sound. Like their live performances, 'Once Like a Spark' is an intense listening experience that makes you want to move. Raife and Jamie have that rare ‘locked in' groove down pat, providing a rock solid chassis for Cahir and Andrew's guitars to slash and riff upon. The band switches tempos and moods effortlessly, leaving your ears scrambling to catch up. Opener "The Violence" tears out of the speakers with its on/off riff and chorus begging for a front of stage singalong, before "Brave Gravity" comes over all emo-pop with shimmering guitars and melodic vocals. Rather than lapsing into schmaltz, it keeps things edgy, or as JPL themselves might put it, ‘tense'.
"I Opt Out" packs a metallic crunch with some great squalling guitars and a message of nonconformity.“ They failed you once, they'll fail you again / can't they teach us something more than this?” comments Andrew as the song explodes around him.
"Calculate The Risk" opens with an urgent Fugazi style one chord strum, and continues in a rhythmically charged, sonically dynamic manner that would surely make Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto glow with fatherly pride. There are quieter moments too. Despite it's Nation of Ullyses style title, "Do It... Now!" contains more reflection than invection, proving that the band can take their foot off the pedal with just as much style as their full on efforts.
"Conventional Thought" is pure In On The Killtaker knife-edge guitar crunch that somehow finds room for another tuneful vocal performance by Andrew; "Effect a Change" is an inspirational hymn for the Eastpak backpack generation that'll probably spawn a dozen fanzines; "Tethered By All We Know" urges patience in the face of adversity.
Clearly Jetplane Landing are big believers in the power of positive thought, though clearly they do have their darker moments such as on the gruff "The Strength of Our Convictions", when it really is ‘us against them'.
"Writing The Ways Down" dips back into the Fugazi songbook, and the album closes with "There is No Real Courage Without Real Danger", perhaps the best song title I've encountered all year. Live, this is a bile spewing slowly boiling tirade against the status quo (current affairs, not), and hearing it on record just can't do it the same justice as experiencing it in a room full of singing, moshing, JPL addicted loons. “We stand on a precipice, an army of contradictions.” There's the world in a nutshell, courtesy of Mr Andrew Ferris.
In the hands of lesser men, being so clearly inspired by Fugazi in ethics, instrumentation and even lyrical style would be almost unbearably tedious. However, on "Once Like A Spark" JPL come off more as kindred spirits rather than ardent students. Certainly a joint JPL/Fugazi tour would probably be one of the best tickets ever put together if it were to happen.
To sum up, this is a powerful, modern punk rock record packed with intelligent lyrics and ass shaking groove. You should purchase it at your earliest convenience and ensure that the next time the band are in town, you are too. Check out the website and make yourself known.
- David Roy, The Irish News
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