2 out of 5
Produced by: Dave Sardy
A producer does not make the album, just like a director doesn’t necessarily make the movie. But sometimes… maybe?
To my ears, Dave Sardy’s specialty when working with bands is in guiding them to their best selves, while also having a keen ear for beating out a rhythm from – often the range he works in – noise. He tends to favor a mix that pumps up the low end, which works for me, while keeping a very raw punch to the vocals and guitars, resulting in radio-ready singles that also rock the fuck out. And when he’s lined up with bands with the core material, it makes for some magic. But even when that’s not the case, he very often milks out some insanely catchy material; again: getting the band to be their best selves.
Jet’s Shine On sounds absolutely brilliant. It’s clear the band wanted to push their image a bit beyond the 70s throwback rock shtick that was extremely popular at the time of their debut Get Born, and definitely the cause for criticism of the somewhat emptiness found when bands were adopting that posture too directly; to that extent, they bring in more Beatles-esque harmonies, and expand the repertoire to Rolling Stones boogie, and try to push beyond that at points, stepping outside of pastiche and more into modern jangle / Americana. But: their bread and butter and most head-bobbing moments are still when Nic Cester’s raging scream is piped over amped up riffs, and banging drums, and booming bass; the attempted expansion to these other styles – while skillfully done, and produced out the whazoo – is almost offensive in how much it underscores the band’s lack of identity. Where Sardy steps in here is in (in my mind) helping to prevent the group from just ripping some stuff wholesale; the bridges to their songs and the way payoffs are delayed really gives things a nice edge, and helps keep us engaged, while the band rather wildly careens around for an identity.
Towards the end of the album is when Jet tries some new things – more modern styles – and it’s a nice fit; they sound relaxed. But you get it: it’s not an immediate payoff; it’s not big, arena-sized riffs that earn singles. Still, that’s the core the band is working with: some definite songwriting chops. That makes Shine On undeniably fun, on the surface, but it’s lack of focus is also very readily apparent, and can become bothersome if you’re listening beyond using it for background music.