Style: Glam/Hard Rock
Release Date: 25 Jan 2019
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Jetboy were one of those hard rock bands of the eighties who were victims of their time. In Los Angeles in 1986, you had to glam up or lose out and, behind the make up and hairspray, they were only kinda sorta glam; they were always a rock 'n' roll band. Then, just as they were getting up some steam, hello Nevermind and bye bye anyone who even remotely tied to glam. So that was it for Jetboy and so many others.
They reformed in the 2000s though and have gradually built up a name for themselves since. When legendary LA venue, the Whisky a Go-Go, celebrated their first half century, they had Jetboy support Faster Pussycat at the inevitable party and that's a highly appropriate double bill. Born to Fly is a second album for the reformed Jetboy, after 2010's Off Your Rocker, and it's good stuff that deserves some radio time.
I read that they recorded that prior album pretty much live in the studio, to feed off each other's energy, and that would be believable here too, as there's an immediacy to it that highlights how few frills there are here. When they add something extra, like the phone conversation on She or Lemmy reading a poem behind Beating the Odds, it kicks us back a level and reminds us that we're listening to a recording.
What's more surprising is the range that the band exhibit here. The core of the album is stripped down glam rock with simple but effective riffs and characterful vocals. It's appropriate that the epitome of this is the title track. She does that job too. The Way That You Move sounds oddly like Hanoi Rocks covering a modern country song, if you can imagine that. Brokenhearted Daydream keeps the Hanoi Rocks feel but ditches the country and adds Saxon riffs and woah-woah backing vocals instead.
But glam isn't all we get here. Old Dog New Tricks starts out rather like a George Thorogood song with a driving riff, a harmonica for flavour and even a Motörhead escalation before the chorus for emphasis. Inspiration from Desperation could have been an AC/DC song. Wildest of all, Smoky Ebony is a soulful slide guitar-driven bluesy number that wouldn't have felt at all out of place on a Lynyrd Skynyrd album in the early nineties. Least wild is probably All Over Again, which is straight ahead rock with a catchy chorus, but still done well.
What keeps Born to Fly sounding like Jetboy rather than all those other bands are primarily the vocals of Mickey Finn. Yeah, he gets a little close to Mike Monroe on a couple of tracks but he keeps everything here grounded. Nothing runs over five minutes and that's perfectly fine because it's no nonsense stuff. They kick into gear immediately, do what they do best and move on to the next number.
I think that dirty edge is what makes this work so well. Sure, they could play a stadium in support to a Mötley Crüe or a Guns n' Roses, but they would lose a little something in that amount of space. Jetboy should be experienced live in a small club with a lot of people and a lot of beer. Every track here could be in the set because they're all that worthy.
I'll always raise my pint to bands who struggle to find their time but sound damn fine anyway. That's Jetboy in a nutshell. Cheers!