"After a six year hiatus the Derry born cabin crew are back, this time with an absolute beast of a record in 'Don’t Try'."
It’s with fond memories and a willingness to cast aside my current listening trends that I approached this record. I was introduced to Jetplane Landing back in 2001 when they played several Irish dates in support of their debut album 'Zero for Conduct'. I had been a fan of frontman Andrew Ferris’ band Cuckoo, a Derry band who released one album for the mighty Geffen Records in the late 90′s. Jetplane Landing however was a different beast – yes there was pop hooks, yes it had more bite and yes ‘Summer Ends’ is still one of the finest bursts of summer pop you’re likely to come across. Over the next six years the band would go on to release two more albums, the juggernaut that was 'Once Like a Spark' in 2003 and 'Backlash Cop' (the experimental funk period). After a six year hiatus the Derry born / London based cabin crew are back, this time with an absolute beast of a record in 'Don’t Try'.
It’s probably worth noting that the Noise ‘Riffometer’ is actually broken here. That’s probably a good thing today as it wouldn’t stand a chance against this record. I’ll leave it to you to count how many times the word riff is used today.
Ferris and co kick things off with ‘Cheapskate Trick For Worn Down People’. Present still is the band’s love for post hardcore, Dischord Records-influenced angular guitars and unconventional arrangements. Most Jetplane Landing songs are smothered with swerves, one minute you’re in a hostile hardcore setting, 10 seconds later and the floodgates are open for a mass singalong and an outpouring of pure pop emotion. If you were new to Jetplane Landing, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were an American band. Largely due to the production values but so too Andrew Ferris’ vocal contribution. Now, I’ve questioned this a little bit and it’s either one of two things….that’s just how it is or it’s a Derry thing. The same could be said about Belfast band Oppenheimer, Derry band Wonder Villains, Derry band Fighting With Wire, all of which would pass as stateside acts to the unfamiliar. Still, when it works why question it, right?
The band soar to some serious heights on ‘Beat Generation…Ha!’ a short nod to modern era Foo Fighters is quickly disbanded for an onslaught of stop / start chugging, echoing the band’s strongest 'Once Like a Spark'-era output.
‘Cortez & Columbus’ takes a view of the immigrant situation at large, as Ferris spews “Here we are on foreign soil”. It’s breezy power pop at its finest, rammed full of harmonies, a big mid eight dance off and some wonderful disco rhythms courtesy of the band’s new sticks man Craig McKean.
With songs like ‘My Radio Heart’ the band prove that they are on a par with Reading headliners like Biffy Clyro (whom I’ll never get…) and make you wonder why a band like Jetplane aren’t in that position right now. It’s fit for radio (be it XFM, Phantom or Kerrrang), it’s poptastic, American radio would eat it up but yet these guys seem to thrive on staying DIY, thrive on their cult following and thrive on releasing music on their own Smalltown America imprint.
‘Walls of Derry’ is a fine tribute to the band’s hometown, a hybrid of punk and metal and Helmet-inspired open tune riffage. Again Ferris swerves us throughout and as always nothing overstays its welcome. Although we’re only 18:00 minutes in, it’s clear to see that the band took their time over the six year hiatus to make something truly unique. As mentioned, there are so many great ideas here that it’s tough to grasp just how well it’s put together.
The people vs technology debate is next on the card with ‘Broken by People’, its acapella opening “I have been broken by people not by objects but by humans”, makes me want to see these guys live once again.
‘The Lightning Bird Blinded by Moonfire’ reverts back to the band’s earliest material, again proving that they’re a dab hand for the sing-along-chorus. This track is like a throwback to the carefree, slacker ways of the mid 90′s, you can hear bits of Kerbdog seep through, so too elements of RATM’s Tom Morello with the guitar effects.
The metaphors are in full effect on ‘Man With a Movie Camera Trapped Inside His Head’ as Ferris references being “in and out of focus” or social paranoia with “through out this double feature the coke will break the ease”. Taking on the role of the modern day bohemian, induced for interaction with a playback for satisfaction. Again it’s riff paradise where the island is shaped like the body of a telecaster, guitars screech and change comes in the form of chunkage.
Pixies fans will be the first to spot the reference points on ‘The Trees Fill With Screaming Birds’, an absolute belter of a track that in my opinion should have closed the record. Alas, it wasn’t to be. It’s all here either way, somewhere between Trompe Le Monde and Bossanova, Santiago-style leads, mid bar riff shifts, the bass / drum heavy verses, but it’s all good, don’t worry.
‘Magnetic Sea’ wraps up with some tight grooves and even tighter production values, its spacey flanger sections seal the deal but overall it’s probably the weakest track and a little throwaway for Jetplane standards.
I have to admit that I was a little worried about how I would approach this review. 2001 was 12 years ago and trust me when I say my taste in music is far removed from that era. As always though, we tell it like it is at Noise. Musical taste and preferences aside, I wanted to revert back to what it was I loved about this band in the first place. The thing is I can put my hand on my heart and forgive them for 2007′s ‘Backlash Cop’ (or at least approach it in a different light…) and say that Jetplane Landing are still a great fucking band. I couldn’t give a flying fuck if my neighbours think my long lost 13 year old has turned up on my door with stereo in toe, this stuff is just fun. Refreshingly fun at that. I for one respect the fact that Jetplane Landing aren’t willing to conform, still do things their way and are still making incredibly polished records that have something to say. I’m looking forward to seeing this record live when the band play The Workmans Club on September 11th. Let’s hope the venue is well insured too because when this Jetplane Lands they’re going to know all about it.
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