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Aural Pleasure 

The problem a lot of folks really have with Jet is that they never come off as refreshingly original as trendy it-bands like the Arctic Monkeys do
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Shine On

The problem a lot of folks really have with Jet is that they never come off as refreshingly original as trendy it-bands like the Arctic Monkeys do. They always sound like someone else. But the thing is, whether or not they do sound like AC/DC covers of Oasis covers of the Beatles (they do), Jet doesn’t seem to give a damn. Maybe it’s their Aussie upbringing, maybe it’s the heavy boozing, but these guys play what they want and do it while their testicles dangle out of their trousers. They want you to see how big their balls are, really.

On their sophomore album Shine On, Jet doesn’t bother with anything as silly as progression. Who the hell wants artists to grow, right? Jet understands that, which is why you get more of the cock-rock guitars that made their debut Get Born’s “Cold Hard Bitch” so goddamn contagious. “Holiday,” “Rip It Up,” and “Come On Come On” deliver in this department (albeit, not to the degree of “Bitch”), while “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” — besides being a very unsanitary suggestion — falls flat, thanks in part to the band’s notoriously painful lyrics.

In fact, the best way to listen to Jet is to not. Hearing them is a better strategy. Let their balls-out rock just sort of wash over you and, when it slows down into ballad territory, through you. “Kings Horses,” “Eleanor,” and the surprisingly poignant tribute to Jet’s Cester brothers’ father “Shine On” might give you more reason to toss the CD in than the foot-stompers this time around. There’s a sophistication and sensitivity to these tracks, especially “Shine On,” that almost breaks free of the you-sound-just-like-blah-blah-blah labels.

Sure, Jet might sound like a lot of other bands, but at least it seems like they’re having fun while doing it — and that is unpretentiously refreshing.

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Born in the U.K.
Badly Drawn Boy

Damon Gough, a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boy, is probably best known as the guy behind the melodic-rock soundtrack to that Hugh Grant-starring Nick Hornby adaptation About a Boy. Well, he’s back this month with Born in the U.K., his third album since then, which, it should be obvious — unless you’ve suffered recent blunt trauma to the head — is a riff on Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. While Springsteen’s ’84 classic was a rocking declaration of working-class disenfranchisement in Reagan’s America, Gough is taking on Britain’s increasing disconnection with its national heritage and identity.

On the album’s intro, “Swimming Pool,” Gough asks: “Do you think it matters where you’re born? / No, not really, it only matters / That you can be proud of where you came from / I don’t think I know who I am anymore.” His confusion over his personal and national history continues with the title track, on which he reflects on the country’s progression during his lifetime; from the hosepipe ban to Sid Vicious and John Lennon to the skirmish in the Falklands and the Iron Lady, he wants to know how this has all come to represent so little to the British. “Then you see the Union Jack,” he sings, “and it means nothing.”

Tracks like “A Journey from A to B” and the Bacharach-esque piano ballad “Nothing’s Going to Change Your Mind” — the best song on Born — bring to life the album’s less-heady moments, benefitting from Gough’s ability to craft sublime melodies. But, despite how wonderful many of the songs are individually, Born in the U.K. doesn’t achieve anything close to the thematic cohesiveness of Springsteen’s patriotic opus. The track selection might prove personally appropriate for Gough, but his albums have always come across as uneven, and this one is no different.

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More by Cole Haddon

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September 9, 2020

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