Jet Black Stare, a Canadian quintet, get up close and personal with their sensitive side on In This Life, their debut album. Not surprisingly, 3 Doors Down tapped this band to open for them on their most recent tour, as In This Life certainly shares similarities with 3 Doors Down. Both favor mid-tempo rock songs that are occasionally accompanied by strings and contain yearning lyrics about romantic relationships. Occasionally, Jet Black Stare try for darker textures, but In This Life is never better than when the guys are unabashedly sappy.
Rod Black, frontman for Jet Black Stare, hits many of the expected lyrical topics on In This Life: regret (“Rearview Mirror”), escaping the drudgery of daily life (“The River”) and lovers separated by distance (“Next to Me”). Interestingly, though, Jet Black Stare take a page from contemporary country acts in their focus on wistful songs about bygone loves. While the band members don’t break out the fiddles and pedal steel guitars, the album’s deeply nostalgic, romantic tone produces a set of tunes that are several shades warmer than most new rock bands attempt.
Familiar but Effective Songwriting Approach
The majority of the relationship songs on In This Life reside in the middle ground between bitter breakup tunes and blissful celebrations of true love. A good example is “I Won’t Let Go,” where Black sings passionately about a girl he’s trying to hold on to. As a counterpoint to Black’s sensitive declarations, guitarist Dave Muselman offers restrained solos that suggest emotional anguish while being pretty enough not to scare away anyone resistant to hard rock. There is nothing innovative in Jet Black Stare’s approach – it’s clear they were 3 Doors Down fans before they joined them on tour – but the sincerity of Black’s words matched with consistently crafty songwriting are an effective combo.
Unconvincing Tough Guys
As if trying to prove to listeners that they’re more than just big wimps, Jet Black Stare kick off In This Life with “Ready to Roll,” an aggressive track that finds Black spewing macho bluster like “Running hot/I feel like I’m ready to roll” over pounding drums and fast-paced guitars. “Ready to Roll” strains too hard to be “rock ‘n’ roll” – it’s the sort of song Rev Theory do much better – and is, thankfully, unlike just about everything else that follows. Similarly, when Black tries to get sexy, talking about a naughty club girl on “Poster Princess,” the terse riffing and Black’s hormone-drenched vocals aren’t convincing.
Nothing Wrong With Sentiment
While it’s understandable that Jet Black Stare don’t want to seem one-dimensional on their debut, they show real skill at sentimental love songs. Maybe they’ll learn to be tough guys later in their career, but on In This Life, they do a good job getting in touch with their feelings.
“I Won’t Let Go”
Best Tracks:“Next to Me”
“I Won’t Let Go”
Release date – July 15, 2008