Album Reviews

The Static Jacks – If You’re Young

(Fearless) UK release date: 5 March 2012

To put a current marker against The Static Jacks’ name that demonstrates their sonic and attitudinal kin, they are the half brothers of We Are Scientists and The Vaccines, documenting youth and the mistakes of growing up with a mix of indie punk rock.

But among If You’re Young’s swift ditties and memorable hooks, there’s an undeniable air of blunderbuss and a smorgasbord of Scot-esque rallying chants, stampeding American choruses and British guitar melodies in verses that make it, at times, a bit of a bumpy ride. The recent double A side single perfectly illustrates the respective lows and highs that The Static Jacks reach across the 12 tracks, from the cliché rock of Into The Sun, to the breezy post-punk guitar melodies of Mercy, Hallelujah’s verses.

The New Jersey four piece exude confidence – the kind of confidence garnered from an upcoming UK tour with The Wombats, and a number of reputation-boosting support slots with Tapes ‘n Tapes, Biffy Clyro and this year’s tip for the top, Howler.

Whether intentionally or not, this is a record aimed at the mass middle – the nets cast wide but not deep. But the collection does contain a central arsenal of tracks that would’ve deserved attention in indie rock’s halcyon days of six years ago. As it is, despite being full of ingredients that could give them success, there is little to excite the ears of a music buying public that currently dances to a different beat.

No less cocksure than some of the bands they naturally align with, they cry, “But you’re still a dick!” amidst the breakneck, hooky riffs, handclaps and vocal chord-ripping vocals of opener, Defend Rosie. The remainder of the opening trio reflect this patter, with Into The Sun and Girl Parts’ forced American rawk, the latter inching to redemption by a female vocal that’s weaved in and out.

A change of tack with the off-beat rhythms and guitars of My Parents Lied sees a shift from punk rock to indie punk. It’s here where The Static Jacks achieve a formula that gives them more of an identity, although they never quite escape the shackles of comparison to artists that got there before them. Sonata and Walls both have the intonation of post-With Love And Squalor We Are Scientists. And despite Mercy, Hallelujah’s lyrical bitterness, “Just like Jesus Christ I’m never coming back,” pleasingly, the track doesn’t leave a bitter taste in the mouth. It’s a competent three minute slice, but there’s a niggling feeling that it’s comparisons with The Cure and New Order that the aural senses are most clinging to.

The latter part of the album has that familiar American edge often created when cross-Atlantic bands go for the Brit-indie rock sound. This isn’t an intrinsically bad thing in itself, and some might conclude that The Static Jacks’ gusto makes up for lack of inventiveness, with the guitar melodies and lad-chant choruses of Blood Pressure, the psychedelic riffs of This Is Me Dancing and big choruses and keyboards of It’s Such A Shame that recall The Killers.

As infectious and riotous as If You’re Young might well be, the inescapable reality is that the mass middle isn’t walking over hot coals to buy this sort of music at the moment. Doubtless, the wheel of chance will always stop at indie punk rock in cycles, but like many others attempting a breakthrough at this time, The Static Jacks can no longer rely on gaining fans simply by virtue of the genre sitting at the top of the popularity tree. That could spell trouble for them, especially when in hard rock ‘n’ roll times even the gems aren’t guaranteed to garner attention. However, their debut does have, at its core, a catchy collection of tracks that, in another time, may have catapulted them into the fray. But at the moment, it’s hard to see this being enough.

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The Static Jacks – If You’re Young