Review Summary: A guilty pleasure without the guilt.
By instinct, all things mature over time. There will come a day in a girl's life when Hannah Montana's influence on her life will fade, while a young man will (usually at age 24) eventually realize that fart jokes aren't really that funny. This is not unalike to a lot of music. Most musicians mature, both technically and in a songwriting-sense over the course of time. However, a lot of fun and naive bands haven't yet stepped out of their leisurely youthful sound (Paramore, Relient K) and in fact, may never do that; their only purpose in the industry is to feed the hungry ears of pre-pubescent starlets and tickle the taste buds of musical snobs looking for a guilty pleasure. To bring this into a healthy perspective here, Jonezetta was one of these bands (was
being the operative word). Their debut, Popularity (which, ironically, was sadly underexposed) was brimming with dance beats, catchy hooks and spiraling synths. In essence, it was juvenile, campy but an irresistible good time. Two years after Popularity
comes Jonezetta's infamous sophomore release: Cruel to be Young
. The title may alone be an indicator to the maturation that took place between these two albums -- for while Cruel to be Young is still poppy, catchy and fun, Jonezetta has developed, honed and almost reinvented their distinctive sound.
Dropping the disco and dance influences, Cruel to be Young initially sounds like a completely different band. Songs channel all sorts of influences -- from Coldplay to As Cities Burn to The Classic Crime. This may not sound completely unconventional to a new listener, but when compared to Popularity
, the difference is immense. Songs like the soaring title track have lead singer Robert Chilsom peaking through his newly honed falsetto (as he does for most of the album) over meandering keyboards (provided by new addition Tyler Kemp) and indie-tinged anthemic melodies. In a similar manner, Paint and Picture
allows for Chilsom to showcase his best Chris Martin impression in a bountifully positive and cruising tune that exhibits the delightful songwriting that takes place throughout the record. Another fine example is the slack-jawed drawl of Sick in the Teeth
, a delightful pentatonic exploration of harmony and cohesion, complete with guest vocals from Pedro the Lion
's David Bazan.
Musically, Jonezetta is a far cry from a technically astounding band, but the instrumentation on Cruel to be Young does the right thing at the right time in almost every instance. Kemp's amiable pianos mimic Kyle Howe's lofty U2-like riffs, noodling abstractly over Alex Warren's (another new member) simple-but-sweet drumming. In the respectable up-beat manner of the album, the majority of songs are soaring anthems that are seemingly specifically tailored to match the sunshine and shadows of summertime. Unfortunately, this turns out to be the musical downfall of the album -- the sugary, sweet pop melodies are infectious and tickling, but it limits the appeal of the record. The bounce and zeal of songs like "Busy Body" can only work it's magic on people already in a pleasant mood, for in any other case, it's just downright repulsive.
Luckily, the amount of variation and hooks largely make up for the overdose of happiness that Jonezetta provide and Cruel to be Young
ends up being a surprisingly mature and downright fun experience. The maturation since 2006 for Jonezetta succeeded hugely -- it's still the same fun Jonezetta, just without the blaring synth and campy lyrics. The bright tones and shimmering vocal performance presented cry out to be warranted by more marketing. It really is a shame that this gem will go widely unnoticed.