Punk rock cannot exist without youth. Youth stokes its fire, transmuting its simple chords and driving rhythms into urgent, vital art. At its best, punk is an anthem of youthful longing and abandon, the perfect distillation of certainty and confusion, anger and expectation.
It is not easy, then, when punks grow up. It takes great talent to evolve, to successfully translate adolescent passion into something mature but still meaningful. Most bands do not even try, aping youthful enthusiasm years after the members' glory days have become faded memories.
Jets to Brazil frontman Blake Schwarzenbach once led Jawbreaker, the legendary Bay Area band whose honest, frenetic songs captured the essence of adolescent emotion like few other groups. Four Cornered Night, Jets to Brazil's second release, marks Schwarzenbach's attempt to grow up, an almost self-conscious stab at maturity. While the results are decidedly mixed, credit him for trying.
Jets to Brazil's first release was a step away from Jawbreaker's rough edges, but it maintained the same urgency - the same building crescendos and brisk tempos. Four Cornered Night sets a much more leisurely pace, showcasing sedate songs with prominent piano and organ riffs. It is pretty, catchy, melodic. The lyrics are clever, even touching.
Yet something is missing. Schwarzenbach has discarded his old band's raw intensity, but is unable to fill the space left behind. The tunes here are listenable, but lack a certain inspiration and fire. Jets to Brazil successfully refines punk's malt-liquor kick, but the mellow, mature brew they offer in exchange has yet to prove it can be half as intoxicating.