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The Dying Art of Life

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Oct
The Dying Art of Life
Sounds like … a poor man's hybrid of Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World, and many of the Fighting Jacks' labelmates at Tooth & NailAt a glance … they're fine lyrically, but ultimately, this band fails to distinguish itself from the overcrowded West Coast Christian rock scene

Like most budding bands sprouting on the fertile Tooth & Nail soil—which has already sprouted plenty of new acts this year—San Jose's Fighting Jacks attempt to make a splash with their evocatively-titled debut, The Dying Art of Life. The band, birthed in the fall of 2000, gained notoriety by touring the local circuit nonstop and landing a couple of strategic shows alongside heavy hitters P.O.D., Hoobastank, The Strokes, and Jimmy Eat World, among others. Their zeal apparently caught the attention of T&N, which added the Jacks to its hefty roster.

I can hear the complaints already: "But do we need another nondescript Tooth & Nail hopeful?" Truthfully, we don't, but I guess the label believed Fighting Jacks had something new to offer to the current landscape. But I don't think they do.

The trio of sped-up rockers opening the Jacks' debut album immediately poses a problem for the band, since it prevents them from establishing an original, distinctive sound. All three songs sound as if the Foo Fighters' self-titled album and Jimmy Eat World's oft-emulated self-titled release collided into one homogenous blend of easygoing, youthful rock anthems. "Farewell Senator" is one of those tunes, and though its lyrics about abusive church leaders seek to make it rise above the status quo, the simple semi-rocking arrangement brings down its overall value.

Other selections simply fall into modern rock territory. "Year of the Dead," one such tune, describes the day when Jesus will return "with a knife so bright/cutting through the darkest of hour and the men that fell … shining justice down/Overhead washing away for a better day." Those familiar with the opening strains of Creed's bombastic epic "Who's Got My Back" will probably recognize the intro to the curiously titled "Chercher," which starts softly and sinisterly, only to explode by what seems to be the chorus of the song-very much like the Creed tune. From here on out, the album settles into a slow groove, trying its hand at bloated, purportedly pensive ballads that say a lot lyrically, but leave no lasting impression musically ("Whirlpools," "…of a Dear Friend").

After ten listens to The Dying Art of Life, I still don't think the album packs a distinguishable punch to differentiate it from other recent projects by similar bands. For some reason, the project's lyrics, melodies, arrangements, or ideas are not easily retained. Most of what's presented here misses the fertile ground of the listener's mind, instead ending up in rocky territory, bearing no fruit, easily forgettable. Still, they get props for the project's art direction—cute and creative in its depiction of a little girl traveling through different locales via her helium-propelled balloons. On the cover, she even floats above a cityscape. Next time around, we can only hope the Fighting Jacks can venture to the same heights.