Back in the late '70s, Ron Howard bolstered his film career with such art-house gems as Eat My Dust! and Grand Theft Auto. These cult classics relied largely on big cars, girls in short-shorts and redneck policemen who always ended car chases by driving into barns. Good stuff. But Howard got one thing wrong with these movies (aside from the campy dialogue and the destruction of perfectly good automobiles, of course): His love for hokey banjo soundtracks didn't do the car chases justice.
It's a shame the Adventures of Jet weren't around back then, because their latest album could've just as easily been titled Eat My Dust! The band documents a night in the life of a muscle-car racer and sets the story to a blistering new-wave rock sound that finds guitars and keyboards in constant battle for supremacy. It's the first album from the band (singer-keyboard player Hop Litzwire, guitarist-bassist Tony Janotta, drummer Rob Avsharian) that really sets AOJ apart from its previous incarnation, Bobgoblin. On their last disc, Part 3: Coping With Insignificance, keyboards merely supplemented the kind of songwriting already familiar to Bobgoblin fans; here, synthesizers receive much more attention and volume in the mix. But what's even more noticeable is the scope of the songs: Where Part 3 was content with simple-yet-smart hooks, Muscle allows songs more time and room to drive in different directions.
This change has cost AOJ some of its sing-along quality, and the increased keyboard parts are often so busy that some catchy hooks are buried in Litzwire's need to switch notes every measure. While highlights "Emily Mazurinsky" and "Fairlane" thrive on sharp guitars, the rest of the album sacrifices some of the band's former energy. This shift seems more befitting a soundtrack than a straight-out rock effort, which might be exactly what the band wanted. In any case, be thankful that the keyboards drown out the hokey banjo solos.
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