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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Cruel to Be Young

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Sep
Cruel to Be Young
Sounds like … alternative rock with a little bit of power pop, influenced by Weezer, Radiohead, Wilco, and to a lesser extent, Switchfoot and Tom PettyAt a glance … a departure from the dance rock of Jonezetta's first album, Cruel to Be Young is still an impressive alt-rock release, even if the band's lyricism generally lacks depth or spiritual meaningTrack Listing Wide Awake Holding On to You Busy Body Everything Is Sick in the Teeth Cruel to Be Young Silver Enough Feedback Year after Year Window

It's becoming more and more uncommon to call a new band unique or distinct, and that's exactly why Jonezetta created a stir with their 2006 national debut Popularity. Touring with popular acts like Anberlin and MuteMath, they attracted audiences with a sort of neo-new-wave approach to dance rock that wasn't too post-punk (like The Killers) or too campy (like Family Force 5). Their sound was all about fun, finding the musical hook for a three-minute rock song that kept listeners coming back.

Now Jonezetta returns with their follow-up, and have already radically changed their sound in two years' time. Though they acquired a new drummer and new keyboardist in mid-2007, the changes in lineup are not directly responsible for the different direction. Instead, the band as a whole was influenced this time by classic albums from Radiohead, Weezer, Wilco, and even a little Tom Petty. Consequently, Cruel to Be Young has more of an alternative rock flavor, with songcraft focused more on ambience and the overall album flow than a string of catchy rockers.

That's only a bad thing for those anticipating more of the same. Jonezetta still sounds excellent—they're just different than the band heard on Popularity. "Busy Body" embraces the power pop of Weezer, while "Holding On to You" and "Enough" shimmer in their beautiful alt-pop arrangements. Perhaps the most striking difference in the band's sound is the comparably organic, acoustic approach used in tracks like "Silver" and "Everything Is."

One thing that hasn't changed for Jonezetta is mediocre lyricism—this still isn't your band if you're looking for depth or spiritual truth. "Wide Awake" could be interpreted as spiritual awakening and discovering what it means to love others, and "Sick in the Teeth" (featuring guest harmony by David Bazaan of Pedro the Lion) resembles Jesus' words about cutting off sin from our lives. Beyond that, the title track merely touches on our fears of the future, or how the young learn things too late in life. "Year after Year" copes with loss, including the death of a loved one—that's certainly an authentic feeling, but it still seems to be missing some deeper point, spiritual or otherwise.

Lead singer Robert Chisolm says there's no underlying message to the album, other than pointing out how it reflects the unpredictability of life—that some things change and some things remain constant. Likewise, Jonezetta has taken a new musical direction while still relying on so-so lyrics. They remain impressive, but not necessarily improved.

© Andree Farias, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.