Part 3: Coping With Insignificance
(Space Age Records)
Maybe it's because singer-keyboard player Hop Litzwire, drummer Rob Avsharian, bassist Tony Jannotta, and guitarist Jason Weisenburg keep changing their name, from Bobgoblin to The Commercials to The Adventures of Jet in less than two years. Or it could be that some people can't see past the group's old Black Market Party concept, dismissing it as novelty even if that doesn't come close to summing up the band's popaganda. Or maybe it's simply because the group's songs are just too smart for mass consumption, though a white comedian at the Apollo Theater stands a better chance of escaping a hook than anyone who's heard the band in its various guises. Whatever the reason, for far too long the title of The Adventures of Jet's new album (third in a series, first under its new moniker) hasn't been at all ironic; it is an apt assessment of the situation rather than a clever in-joke.
Not that it matters at all, or that the band cares anyway: As Litzwire sings on "Domino," "I've already shown you all I can do...I've got nowhere to go." But that doesn't quite ring true, not after listening to Coping With Insignificance. Freed from having to write national anthems for a country that doesn't exist, as it did on 1997's major-label debut and finale The Twelve-Point Master Plan, AOJ has come up with a pop record that swings for the fences and ends up hitting a dozen singles, three-minute foot-tappers that have more business being on the radio than station IDs. With the addition of Litzwire's seesawing keys and Jannotta and Weisenburg's falsetto harmonies, oozing with ahhs, the songs on the disc are too big to fit inside the box the group built for itself as Bobgoblin. In fact, Coping With Insignificance makes the two albums the group recorded in that form (including 1994's Jet) sound almost quaint in comparison, squeaky memories of a band whose voice has changed so much since then. Of course, it's talking about different things now.
There's still a theme here: With song titles such as "End of the Planet," "Tell Me When It's Over," "The Way Out," and "Radio Noise," it's either a condemnation of the music industry or of the world in general, or both. It's difficult to tell exactly what it's about, and the band makes sure you forget exactly what you're looking for in the first place. "The Road" is a power ballad in the truest sense, all chugging barre chords and buzzing, bubbling synth. "Wasted Time" doesn't waste time or anything else, letting Avsharian and Jannotta do most of the heavy lifting until Litzwire's needling riff pins the song to its simple backbreaking chorus: "I've wasted all my time with you." And "Lords of Dungeons in the Air" is new-wave musical theater, West Side Story as done by The Cars. In the end, Coping With Insignificance is less about ideology than the idea that melody is more important than meddling. Call it a one-point master plan. That's all the group ever needed anyway.