A half decade after Jet broke up, Nic Cester makes his musical return with a completely reinvented sound in his solo debut, Sugar Rush.
Jet was one of my favorite bands growing up. I still remember convincing my dad to buy Get Born along with Green Day’s American Idiot from Best Buy back in 6th grade. I still remember sitting down with my guitar trying to figure out how to play every song on the album when I was in 8th grade. Despite how popular Jet became when they exploded onto the music scene originally, they faded out relatively quickly. Their sophomore project, which I enjoyed quite a bit, lacked the staying power of Get Born. I thought their last project, Shaka Rock, felt uninspired compared to their first two projects. By the time they broke up, newcomers, such as The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys, dominated rock charts. Five years later, Nic Cester steps back into the spotlight with the same electrifying voice, but with a completely different sound.
New project, new sound.
For a decade, Nic Cester cemented his voice in garage rock canon. It seemed he would be forever defined by that genre of music. For this reason, Nic Cester’s debut album was a surprising twist in music this year. He seemed to abandon the famed garage rock sound for a psychedellic, soul influenced blues rock sound. Songs like “Sugar Rush” and “Psichebello” have more of the psychedelic influence with the heavy use of fuzzed out guitars. Songs like “Eyes on the Horizon”, “Hard Times”, and “God Knows” scream 60’s and 70’s soul with powerful vocal performances backed up by instrumental tracks that could have appeared on an early Issac Hayes album. The song “Neon Light” seems to be a throwback to Jet’s brand of garage rock, with its swagger filled groove driven by the bass and drums.
The rest of the songs feel a bit unremarkable.
“Not Fooling Anyone” sounds like it could have been a track from The Black Key’s Brothers album. “Little Things” and “Strange Dreams” just sound like the vast majority of other blues rock songs that have dominated the genre for the last 5 years. All these songs are well produced and performed; however, with the lack of originality in the sound, these songs are very lackluster.
This brings us to the track “Who You Think You Are”, which is the most disappointing song on the album, in my opinion. With its very mainstream pop rock influenced instrumental track, it clashes with the rest of the album. The vocal performance was also by far the weakest on this track. Nic Cester sounds more like he is trying to emulate current Adam Levine than trying to sound like himself. Hopefully this is not the direction that Nic Cester moves towards for his next solo project.
The album is a bit lackluster, but the production quality is incredible.
Even in the most lackluster songs, you can definitely see the amount of time and effort put into the production of this album. The best example of this would be in the final track of the album, “Walk On”; where the song starts slow and quiet. The sweet vocal harmonies float above this mellow instrumental track driven by a groovy bass line. The song then starts to build towards this epic conclusion, where an orchestra comes in to finish off the song. The production quality for this song alone is top notch.
Unfortunately, much like the album as a whole, the song falls short of being great. For this song, the problem is that its too short. It sort of ends as it seemed to be taking off. Small problems like this plague the album. I can tell the musicians and producers who contributed to this album are incredible in their own right, but decisions in the songwriting department kept this album from being as great as it could be. Ultimately, this is still a step in the right decision for Nic Cester. He created a new sound for the first half of the album. Hopefully he continues to build on that sound for his next project, instead of copying the status quo.
Best Tracks: “Sugar Rush”, “Eyes on the Horizon”, “Psichebello”, “Hard Times”, and “God Knows”
Worst Track: “Who You Think You Are”