Review: Jet Black Stare – ‘In This Life’

Posted: July 7th, 2008
Contributed By: Nick

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Release Date: July 15th, 2008 via Island/Def Jam
Jet Black Stare is:
Rod Black
Dave Muselman
Shane Hayes
Dan Swinimer

Overview: About a fourth of a score and seven divided by seven years ago, singer/songwriter Rod Black decided to lay to rest his former musical endeavors and shoot for bigger things. Seeing as the Vancouver, Canada area is as bountiful with highly acclaimed producers and songwriters as the Jerry Springer stage is with incest, Mr. Black had no trouble finding the right teammate for the job, settling on Brightman Music’s Jeff Johnson to help push his songwriting to the next level. The duo wrote feverishly, cranking out song after song without batting an eye. While the bones were all connected, the new songs needed skin, blood, and maybe a C-cup, which is why Nickelback’s drummer extraordinaire Daniel Adair was recruited to lay down drums on part of the album (Dan Swinimer throws down on “Ready to Roll,” “I’m Breathing,” “Every Moment,” “Poster Princess,” and “Next to Me”). With an album’s worth of songs in the books, it wasn’t long before labels came knocking; sure enough, Island/Def Jam’s A&R wizard Bob Stevenson put the contract on the table and the pen in Black’s hand, securing a deal to release the record. Of course, Chad Kroeger might have a hissy fit if Adair decided to tour with the band, so Rod Black rallied up four talented musicians to complete his group, given the moniker Jet Black Stare. Their debut album ‘In This Life’ is set to take off on July 15, while first single “Ready to Roll” has already drawn blood on rock radio. Look for the band on tour this summer alongside 3 Doors Down, Staind, and Hinder (pretty sweet for your first U.S. tour, wouldn’t you say?).

The Good: I know what you’re thinking. That Jet Black Stare is IDJMG’s shot at a Nickelback, or a Hinder, or a Goo Goo Dolls. Wait, what? A Goo Goo Dolls? Oh yes, a Goo Goo Dolls. You see, Jet Black Stare have not only mastered the art of present-day modern rock; they have mastered the art of present-day modern rock with a sound that beckons your favorite 90′s alt-rock heroes. Not only that, if Kevin Youkilis can be voted the American League’s STARTING (!) first baseman for this year’s MLB All-Star Game, then ‘In This Life’ should make Jet Black Stare stars with the number of potential smashes it boasts. Pack your bags, because Jet Black Stare is “Ready to Roll”, the album’s effervescent, trail-blazing first song and premier single. The tune is best enjoyed with the windows down, the car storming down the highway at high speeds, and a friend in the front seat that can hold a note as you sing-along to the rollicking yet assertive opening statement from Jet Black Stare. Let’s not forget, “Ready to Roll” is NASCAR’s dream anthem, so stick a copy of ‘In This Life’ in your cooler of Busch Light and corndogs the next time you hit Talladega or Darlington. Jet Black Stare helps you to re-group and settle in to place after “Ready to Roll” with the smooth and consistent “I’m Breathing”. Enter frontman and band brainchild Rod Black, whose soothing, crystalline voice on the track has its first of many expositions as ‘In This Life’ plays on. The album’s title track is like a firefly, whose light flickers ever so delicately in the verses before igniting the chorus with an epic, memorable beam. A little bit 90′s and a whole lot earnest, “In This Life” opens the door to the decade prior for Jet Black Stare, where they will dabble in and dabble well. Skipping “Every Moment” for now, ‘In This Life’ floors it to the halfway point with the rousing “It’s Over”, galvanizing the disc at the equator with visceral energy, and proving what was accomplished with “Ready to Roll” has not tapered off. The song is sent off by a double-kick tirade courtesy of Daniel Adair, who outshines himself and Chadwick’s band by cutting the same part from the end of “Animals” and pasting it here, sounding much more effective this time around; this is where Nelson from the Simpsons would play “It’s Over” for Señor Kroeger, point out that the thingy his drummer did for “Animals” sounds ten times more necessary on the Jet Black Stare record, and then offer up his signature “HA HA!”. ‘In This Life’ flashes its first of a few Top 40 cards with “Rearview Mirror”, taking the bloodlines of Hinder’s “Lips of an Angel” and dousing it with a dangerously infectious medley of soul, passion, and most of all, honesty. Rod Black’s voice alone is enough to warrant a tear or three, and if DoubleDrive could have a second chance, “Rearview Mirror” would have served as a more than competent plan to take the word “eluded” out from in front of their success story. ‘In This Life’ honors Mark Tremonti and earlier 90′s rock with the eclectic “Fly”, a song that is purgative and reflective without sounding wishy-washy. Another day, another chart-topping hopeful, as the warm, telling “I Won’t Let Go” rises to its feet. Goo Goo Dolls fans will eat this shit up, a concoction of sentimental verses and soaring, chesty choruses that Johnny Rzeznik himself would certify Grade-A, top choice meat. Jet Black Stare once again steam things up at the most appropriate time, nailing out the gritty and brisk “Poster Princess”. A song about an exotic dancer, this one proves it belongs on a major label album and not on the stage of some sleazy truck stop paradise with all those other vixens. Keeping their charm, Jet Black Stare deliver “The River”, where punchy, staccato verses make its titanic, sweeping chorus a deserving beneficiary of the song’s gusto; the bridge of “The River” is embellished by the harmonious echoes of a chancel choir, adding a wholesome, eloquent touch to the tune, and the album. ‘In This Life’ backs down from the staring contest with “Next to Me”, yet another budding smash. Jet Black Stare take the high road, ending the album on a more sun-kissed, peachy note rather than the usual doleful ballad or wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kick in the stomach. I saved the best for last, and “Every Moment” is without a doubt the golden Easter egg of the hunt. Closure fans, you will soon notice the song is a re-worked and tweaked version of “Afterglow”; while this might piss you off, one listen will take all that away. A darkhorse song with the potential to do the most chart damage, “Every Moment” is, simply put, beautiful. The track oozes heart and compassion, whose voice is lifted by a clingy chorus and nostalgic lyrics that set “Every Moment” up to be one of the most rewarding post-summer, start-of-a-new-year song in recent time. So completes ‘In This Life’, 38 minutes and 41 seconds of 2008 rock done right and done with sheer craftiness to boot.

The Bad: Umm, I feel like George Bush at the podium here, because I can’t really muster up any words to say in retort of anything good about ‘In This Life’ I already stated. For fodder purposes, you could say Jet Black Stare are just another Hinder clone, trying to do the same thing they did in hopes of scoring the same success. While this might be partly true, Jet Black Stare’s outfit is Armani compared to Hinder’s Hanes, and the band is even humble enough to take said worn garments to Goodwill in hopes of helping others benefit. In other words, ‘In This Life’ is just the kind of rock album fans and critics alike will love to hate, but Jet Black Stare plead their case sufficiently and has the goods to nestle into collections of fans from all genres of rock better than an Isotoner glove on an insulin-bodied O.J. Simpson.

Bottomline: ‘In This Life’ is a blessing to modern rock today, as this is much more than a band coming along, singing their songs about tramp stamps and keg parties, and fizzling out. Even if you try to drain Jet Black Stare, there is just too much influence and penmanship to drag them down the drain. I hear so many artists here that it’s almost scary—Vertical Horizon, Creed, Gin Blossoms, Fuel, and yes, Nickelback. The most prominent association I’ve made is tagging ‘In This Life’ as a re-born Goo Goo Dolls record, a little 1995 release that goes by ‘A Boy Named Goo’. Remember that little guy? You bet your ass you do. And on ‘In This Life’, Jet Black Stare simply follows the lead of its predecessor, the fitting soundtrack for this boy named Goo to listen to as he enters his teens. It won’t be a long way down the line before Jet Black Stare becomes the next pick-hit of rock music, as the naked truth of ‘In This Life’ will unveil that the only thing missing from this masterful album is a platinum award. Ain’t that unusual? Certainly not in Jet Black Stare’s case.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10