In this age of complete media saturation and mammoth publicity campaigns, it's amazing that any record, let alone a truly great one, can slip through the cracks anymore. Yet here we have an album that was released over a month ago that has gone relatively unnoticed. While their fellow NYC residents, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, have enjoyed fawning write-ups from all corners of the globe for a debut album that is merely adequate, Elefant's minor masterpiece of pop craftsmanship has suffered unjust neglect.
There's nothing particularly flashy about front man and songwriter Diego Garcia, which perhaps accounts for the lack of buzz. You're unlikely to find this Brown economics major dousing himself with pitchers of beer or sashaying about in a suit made of dollar bills (a favorite get-up of Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O). Garcia, in true academic fashion, prefers to let his music be the focal point. He constructs his songs from familiar, time-tested elements: a few Cure bass lines, some Bowie-like vocal mannerisms. But Garcia avoids becoming derivative by adding the slightest dashes of garage guitar fuzz and Latin-American rhythms. Strangely enough, the album winds up sounding almost exactly like the sort of product you'd expect from a New Yorker born in Detroit and raised by Argentinean parents.
With a total of 10 songs clocking in at 32 minutes, Sunlight is a triumph of economy-every second is put to good use. If it's not quite genius, Garcia's melodies are almost catchy and insistent enough to convince you otherwise. Right now, I suppose the remarkable quality could be considered accidental, but one more album like this and Elefant will be impossible to overlook.
If the first wave of this "garage revival" was the Strokes, the Hives, and the White Stripes, and the second was the Vines, the Kills, and the Raveonettes, I guess we've officially hit the third wave now with bands like the Star Spangles and now Jet. And as was the case when bands like Sponge and Candlebox appropriated the grunge tag, the genre's latest entrants signal that new garage's best days may have come and gone.
Like those atrocious bands that appeared during grunge's final act, Jet has the most tenuous of connections to the garage movement. Sure, the band members dress the part and their production is appropriately sloppy, but underneath the posturing are the most boneheaded licks this side of AC/DC-a comparison the group doesn't exactly shy away from since one of the band members sports their T-shirt on the CD cover. When the band is not paying homage to their fellow countrymen, Jet pilfers Rolling Stones progressions that even the Stone Temple Pilots would be ashamed to nick. To top it all off, the first track, "Take It or Leave It," shares a title with a Strokes track. God forbid they should attempt some originality.
It's a little premature to dismiss the band entirely, but the EP certainly doesn't bode well. One thing is for certain: if this is what garage has come to, the term has been perverted beyond all recognition.