"'Don't Try' is exactly what the band needed: a reaffirmation of their prowess after six years out of the spotlight. Hopefully we won't have to wait quite as long for album number 5."
Is there a Northern Irish band Cahir O'Doherty hasn't been involved in in the last 15 years? He's certainly been restless, joining Jetplane Landing in the early 2000s, then, after their 2007 hiatus, kicking things off with the soon-to-be-defunct Fighting With Wire, muscling in on LaFaro's turf in 2011 to do the same for the 'Easy Meat' sessions.
Two years later, he's back where he started, and JPL - O'Doherty, Andrew Ferris, Jamie Burchell and Craig McKean - are ready to pick up from where they left off. Well, not quite: 2007's 'Backlash Cop' had them striking out into unfamiliar territory, with a concept album feel and a heightened sense of ambition, but 'Don't Try' is relatively straightforward in comparison, focused intently on ensuring that the band make the most powerful return they possibly can. It's a goal it accomplishes with ease, striking the perfect balance between angular riffing and pitch-perfect melodic touches.
It's forceful without being overly aggressive, kicking off with one of many brilliantly-named tracks, "Cheapskate Tricks For Worn Down People" (though as far as titles go, it's well-and-truly put in its place by "Man With A Movie Camera Trapped Inside His Head") - the fantastically dry-sounding production imbues the song's buzz-saw riff with even more power, opening things on a high note that remains almost constant throughout. It's a fascinating listen from a lyrical standpoint too: Ferris addresses his contemporaries with scathing wit on "Beat Generation... Ha!" ("Hey, maggots, get off my turf - I wrote shit like this fucking years ago"), and tackles the issue of social anxiety on "Broken By People", a song that stands in contrast to its subject matter ("They know that I'm in, but I'm still not answering") by being one of the most immediate moments on the record. It's one of the most energetic parts of the album, too, and that's saying something; on 'Don't Try', there's essentially no let-up.
It's certainly loud, but doesn't beat you over the head with volume; while you just know songs like "Walls of Derry" and the colossal closer "Magnetic Sea" (both with hooks so big you could probably see them from space) will go down an absolute storm live, there's enough variety in these deceptively complex songs to reward repeated listens.
While it's certainly not as far-reaching as 'Backlash Cop', it doesn't need to be; Jetplane Landing have honed in on what made them want to start writing music in the first place; "Cortez & Columbus" and "My Radio Heart" show off the poppier side of their songwriting, but these songs take detours at unexpected moments, managing to deliver accessible thrills and keep the listener on their toes at the same time. 'Don't Try' is exactly what the band needed: a reaffirmation of their prowess after six years out of the spotlight. Hopefully we won't have to wait quite as long for album number 5.
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