Slow Jets – Remain in Ether

Slow Jets
Remain in Ether

Over the past few months, I’ve been given the recommendation, on more than one occasion, to pick up something by the Slow Jets. This suggestion had come because I’m a pretty good-sized Guided By Voices fan, and that this “Slow Jets” was described as walking in that band’s footsteps. I was intrigued. However, Baby needed a new pair of shows, and so on, so I hadn’t been able to part with the green. A few weeks ago I got my DOA review package, and low and behold there was Slow Jet’s new release, Remain in Ether. Daddy likes!

Knowing that I had been tipped off to a GBV similarity, I had to listen closely and try to keep my journalistic cred and stay open-minded throughout the entire listen so my decision wouldn’t be swayed in either direction. Once I hit play, there it was – someone had tapped into Pollard and Company’s magic box. “Move While the Door is Open” starts with a little toy piano meets synthesizer riff. This runs through a couple bars, and I prayed to the Indie Rock God, “Please, oh please, most exalted One, please let this tune kick into a tasty guitar riff.” And the prayers were answered nearly instantaneously. A guitar came in, followed by sliding chords and Marc Berrong’s pounding drums. Moments later, vocalist and guitarist Greg Preston came on the vocal scene, up front and proud.

Visions of a Pollard Jr. flooded my mind. I see him standing out in front of the band, at stage’s edge. One foot propped up on a monitor, a hand clutching mic and stand, and the other dually grasping a beer and a smoke. Fuck, yeah, this sounds great! Then almost as quickly as this euphoria washes over me, I’m jerked into a direction where the music sparses up and the voice is starting to sound vaguely familiar. Not Mr. Pollard’s, but something from the past. More honestly English than Bob’s Ohioan tribute to the Beatles. Then WHAM! Like another jerk on a roller coaster ride, the song quickly goes into another direction with a guitar run leading my ears around. Then there’s this heavy, washed out keyboard melody, and WHAM! We’re back to the edge-of-stage-rock-out bit. A few more changes and the song is over.

The second song, “Famous Flaws of King Ubu,” comes in with another smack of familiarity. And about half way through it becomes monstrously clear! This record sounds like A-grade, non-demo-y, Under the Bushes Under the Stars-era GBV music with indie-rock-charged, late 80s-sounding Robyn Hitchcock vocals and lyrics. Only two songs in and I’m diggin’ this scene hard.

Once “Drinkers for the Sun” kicks in I can totally hear that Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians Globe of Frogs/Queen Elvis sound. It also becomes very clear that the Slow Jets, who handled their own recording of Remain in Ether, practice a true commitment to quality, indie-rock home recording. As the album moves on, it pulls away from a GBV sound and more into an experimental 80s pop sound. Which actually completes the circle of life, because that’s the era where GBV was fixin’ to do its thing.

From here I would normally go into a run down of each tune and its highlights. However, I’m going to just capsulate, so you can get to the record store quicker. A darker, heavier guitar side; tune made up of three movements (a plus for Tolkein fans); Tim Baier’s noteworthy supporting vocals; fast, pop number guitar assault verging on the Ventures; cool gurgling, space keyboards with a nearly spoken beer-hall chorus and sparse strumming guitar ending; “Private Idaho” vibe with spacey, Theremin-like sound, and crazy distorted noises; drum machine lead, with layers of acoustic guitar and piano; and poppy, yet heavy tinged cascading and meandering guitar riff.

Even through the first listen of Remain in Ether, there’s a comfortableness that feels like you’re home. With their original take of blending two different of classic eras, the Slow Jets, have crafted a sound all to their own, and are quickly becoming Baltimore, MD’s, best-kept secret.