Unbiased reviews of new vinyl releases, audiophile reissues, and more

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Short spin: Jet -- Shaka Rock 180 gram vinyl (w/included cd)

Shaka Rock [Vinyl]

Aussie rockers Jet are back with an all new album, Shaka Rock. Propelled in part by airplay on the popular television series The OC, Jet originally burst onto the scene in 2003 with Get Born, and their brand of classic rock mixed with punk swagger. Get Born proved to be a hell of a fun record and went on to sell in excess of three million copies.

Their 2006 sophmore effort, Shine On was a letdown, both musically, and for anyone who cares about good sound. A particularly glaring casualty of the loudness war, both the cd and vinyl versions of Shine On were terribly loud and compressed--to the point of being "brickwalled" so badly that I simply couldn't enjoy listening to them.

Shaka Rock is Jet's first record for E.M.I. and the 180 gram vinyl pressing arrived flat, clean, and the mostly upbeat rockers played without any significant surface noise. The cover is made of regular weight cardstock and the vinyl is housed in a printed inner sleeve containing the song listings and album credits. Although there is no specific mastering credit listed, I checked with E.M.I and they advised me that David Cheppa was responsible for the vinyl mastering. The vinyl pressing includes a bonus track not included on the cd and E.M.I followed the industry trend of including a cd copy, though they couldn't help themselves from including a warning on the "promo" cd stating that you "must return it on demand."

Jet (2009)

Shaka Rock is more or less a return to form for the band, with almost all of the cuts on the record being uptempo rockers. And for anyone who enjoyed the bombast of Get Born, you'll likely enjoy this one as well. Six years later, the band has matured a bit--but not too much. There still isn't any deep songwriting and their sound is still primarily the blend of the Rolling Stones and AC/DC found on their debut. But in the intervening six years, they've managed to pick up a few additional influences--as arists such as U2, New Order, as well as the Beatles can be heard all over the record.

On the album's first single, She's a Genius, Jet gives their take on The Knack's My Sharona; on Goodbye Hollywood, they combine crunchy Black Crowes-like guitar riffs with the production style found on the last two Green Day releases. And on She Holds a Grudge, the band pays homage to later-era Fab Four, where Beatlesque guitar and Fender Rhodes are featured throughout the mix.

Shaka Rock, back cover photo

The sound on Shaka Rock is reasonably good for a modern guitar-dominated record. While obviously still compressed, this 180 gram vinyl pressing sounds nothing like the uber-compressed and maximized Shine On. The overall EQ is well balanced and the all-important midrange is well represented in the guitar-heavy mix. A large part of the fun of this kind of record is the crunchy guitar lines--and they come through loud and clear on Shaka Rock.

The included cd, which was mastered by Ted Jensen of Sterling Sound, sounds very similar to the vinyl (though it plays at a much higher overall level), with the slightly fuller lower mids of the vinyl likely due to the additional tube phonostage in my playback chain, rather than any real difference in mastering.

While some feel that Jet's music is too derivative, Shaka Rock is a fun-to-listen-to record featuring tasty guitar licks with good tone, energetic vocals, and a nice flow from start to finish. After spending a week with it in my car cd changer and on the home turntable, it continues to grow on me with each listen. And unlike some bands, Jet doesn't appear to be taking themselves too seriously. And that's a good thing.


Listen to Black Hearts (On Fire) from Shaka Rock:


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