After the demise of seminal 90’s punk trio Jawbreaker, lead singer and main lyricist Blake Schwarzenbach formed new band Jets To Brazil not too long after. With leaving on what some consider the perfect note (though many will disagree) with the 1995 album ‘Dear You’, Jets To Brazil were, naturally, hyped up. And before getting into details, they lived up to it, at least with their debut album ‘Orange Rhyming Dictionary’ (a play on how no word rhymes with orange in English). With former Texas Is The Reason drummer Chris Daly and bassist Jeremy Chatelain formerly of Handsome and now of Helmet, completed with Blake’s signature voice and personal lyrics, it’s as though the breakup of Jawbreaker wasn’t all that bad, or at least a better way of taking it.
It is natural that fans will compare it to albums of Jawbreaker but it really is unnecessary, as ‘Orange Rhyming Dictionary’ is some of Blake’s finest (and different) work that is strong enough to stand on its own. However that’s not to say fans of his past material won’t like this, as they most likely will. His emotional, raspy but at times smooth voice is as good as they’ve ever been and his introspective lyrical views on the world from a social outcast and relationships are still in tact. Songs range from the pop-punk inspired opener Crown of the Valley
, to the more dreary experimental intro of Morning New Disease
and the beautiful acoustic ballads like Sweet Avenue
and everything in between.
One of the key or noticeable aspects of ‘Orange Rhyming Dictionary’ is the song lengths. With most tracks reaching over five minutes, the songs get plenty of time to build up, but simultaneously as a con might drag on some, like the album opener. However tracks like the epic I Typed For Miles
get gradually better all the way until and final minute. The albums broad overall mix of indie, pop, punk, and rock come off with a unique twist that is difficult to describe. Many of the songs have a mellow, melodious feel to them, but there are still the occasional fast rock and punk influenced tunes, something the band is not new to. Crown of the Valley
, while one of the lesser songs here, brings back the Jawbreaker-esque riffs similar to Chemistry
(from ‘Dear You’) but is ultimately a misleading intro and one soon forgettable. Resistance Is Futile
does what the former tried but takes it to a better level. However it is not coincidental that two of the albums weakest tracks are two of the most poppy and upbeat.
‘Orange Rhyming Dictionary’s bright cover (which bares similarities to influential and fellow Jade Tree band Cap'n Jazz's anthology album) is rather deceiving, as the albums general tone is quite depressing, but it is actually one of the records greatest strengths along with the lyrics, though they intertwine. Blake is always open with his poetic lyrics as they come off as personal, inspiring, relatable, authentic and anything else along those lines. Telling stories of desperation and alienation, to more abstract lyrics that one might not even understand at first, they are the main point of focus here and the album succeeds at that vastly. Instrumentally, many songs are filled with distortion, lightly strummed chord intros and a superb, creative drumming from Daly. Production-wise it has a clean, audible yet at times rough sound similar to ‘Dear You’.
The record is not as consistent as it could be in terms of memorable songs, but there are a certain few tracks that make the album worth getting alone that make up for it. I Typed For Miles
, with an intro sounding eerily like Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box
, is perhaps the finest moment on the album. It’s creepy intro of gently strummed chords, and Blake’s passionate vocals, the song steadily turns into one of the heaviest on album with Blake yelling “You keep fuc
king up my life!”, the song is nothing less than powerful for the entire six minutes. Chinatown
is another undisputed highlight with another sinister guitar intro and calm, but precise vocals. The album saves one of the best for last with Sweet Avenue
, a beautiful acoustic love song that emphasizes on the vocals and the soft guitar that leaves the album on a memorable note.
Jets To Brazil’s underrated debut is up there with some of Blake’s, or any of the band member’s most excellent work. Full of many moods and styles, honest and thought provoking lyrics, and a select group of some of the best songs you’ll come across. ‘Orange Rhyming Dictionary’ could be enjoyed by not only fans of the member’s past work, but anyone who enjoys honest, abstract lyrics to relate to, and some great music to go with it.
I Typed For Miles