South by Southwest has a way of turning Dallas into a fleetingly improved rock town. That's Dallas, not Austin. Austin during SXSW is a roiling cesspool of drunken industry types and frustrated musicians. It's Dallas, an easy stopover between the rest of the country and the music festival, that showcases (with far more dignity) the bands that care to book an extra show on their way south.
Witness this year's Dallas-based SXSW windfall: Sparklehorse at Galaxy; Flaming Lips and Man or Astroman? at Trees; Ho-Hum at Dada; a trio of obscure Australian bands at the Curtain Club. Why go to Austin at all? These days, it's easy to argue that staying in town is a far wiser choice if music is what you're after. Most local indie fans can catch their favorite touring acts just down the street, without having to drive three hours, buy a goofy overpriced wristband, and fight with the rude and unappreciative masses.
A particularly tasty option for those non-travelers is Jets to Brazil, a mostly new act on the tiny yet powerful Jade Tree label out of Delaware. Granted, the show is in Denton, a 35-minute drive for Dallasites, but Rubber Gloves is a far easier destination than Atomic Cafe.
Jets' frontguy, former Jawbreaker leader Blake Schwartzenbach, has picked up where he musically left off with that earlier notable punk band--more tuneful, more poppy, more good-naturedly energetic. Schwartzenbach and Jeremy Chatelain, formerly of Handsome, hooked up and started chipping away at some songwriting. Once they figured their collaboration was worthy of fleshing out, they brought in drummer Chris Daly.
The band's debut, orange rhyming dictionary (1998), is an example of what can happen to potentially tired three-piece rock when the right guys get hold of it: as bright and sharp as a new straight razor, heavily hook-laden without being cloying or predictable, and evocative of several worthy genres all at once. Song to song, you can hear a clever distillation of Big Guitar, New Wave, Britpop, and good ol' American college radio. Jets to Brazil knows when to be subtle, knows when to lash out, and knows when to bury or spotlight any single element. And all along they keep the melody flowing like honey.
Jets to Brazil plays March 18 at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, Denton. Pedro the Lion opens. Call (940) 387-7781.