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Friday, December 26, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 44.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Sophomore slump

Wednesday, May 2, Barrymore Theatre, 7:30 pm

Fifteen years ago, when modern rock was still in vogue, Jet might have followed the path of the Stone Temple Pilots and succeeded in releasing four straight platinum albums. But in 2007, modern rock is piled on the ash heap of pop-culture history, alongside the Offspring and the Cranberries. In the current decade, rock has evolved into a bipolar world bound by Top 40 and indie. Bands that don't quickly establish a niche in either of those domains aren't likely to sustain more than a one-hit career.

And so it goes for Jet, the Australian garage-rock revivalists whose 2003 debut album, Get Born, sold more than three million copies on the strength of the single 'Are You Gonna Be My Girl.' The masses loved the song, but the band lingered in musical purgatory, somewhere between the commercial hell of Nickelback and the indie heaven of the Strokes.

So it's not surprising that sales of Jet's sophomore 2006 release, Shine On have lagged. The album has, so far, sold about 10% as many copies as Get Born.

The elites at Pitchfork shamelessly snubbed Shine On, offering only a video clip of a monkey peeing into its own mouth as the album's official review. That says more about the state of music culture than it does about Jet. Artistically, the album doesn't lag. It's a challenging recording that doesn't turn back to the adrenaline-fueled party-rock formula the band have already mastered.

In fact, some of Shine On's best tracks are reflective. Jet are led by brothers Nic and Chris Cester, and the title track is a tribute to their late father, who died early last year. 'Before I go, I want you to know there will always be a light,' Nic sings in the song's opening verse.

Atlantic Records doomed 'Shine On' by releasing 'Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is' as the album's first single. It's the only song that sounds like a remix of 'Are You Gonna Be My Girl.'

How much braver the Atlantic execs would have been to release 'Shiny Magazine' as the first single. That track is a beautiful, bittersweet pop song that proves Jet have depth way beyond garage.

Ultimately, 'Shiny Magazine' reveals Jet's own awareness of their musical fate. And with these lyrics, they seem to shrug it all off:

Oh my god I know too well

Being sweet just doesn't sell

And I've got better things to do.

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