Jets To Brazil Four Cornered Night

Having exorcised whatever remnants of the old punk rock demons that were lingering from his past on Jets to Brazil's 1998 debut, Orange Rhyming Dictionary, former Jawbreaker front-man Blake Schwarzenbach has freed his new quartet to focus on songwriting. And on the Jets' sophomore effort, that becomes obvious about three songs into the 13-track disc. After the up-tempo opener, "You're Having the Time of My Life," the band settles into '70s FM radio mellow-rock mode with the addition of piano and organ. By the time we reach the fourth and fifth songs, the band's making music that would be more at home on records like Billy Joel's 52nd Street (the "My Life" sound-a-like "Pale New Dawn"), Jackson Brown's Running on Empty ("In the Summer's When You Really Know") or Bob Seger's Night Moves ("Empty Picture Frame"). It isn't until the second half of the disc that they pick up the rock again, but only for a couple of songs. But while the record is a far cry from the aggressive power pop of the band's debut, it's arguably stronger, at least in terms of songwriting and cohesiveness. On reflection, Orange Rhyming Dictionary sounds very much like a cathartic solo experiment from Schwarzenbach where Four Cornered Night is clearly a more collaborative effort. The performances are more confident and Schwarzenbach's lyrics and vocals have never been more powerful. Mellow? Yes. Wimpy? No. (Jade Tree)