Rock and roll: some would argue that it's become all smoke and mirrors, plug-ins and effects. True in certain cases, but not at all for JET. At the heart of every great rock and roll band lie four essential elements: bass, drums, guitars and vocals. That, in its purest essence, is JET. And JET, in their purest essence, have again captured those elements with their third album, Shaka Rock. With their previous releases — 2003's Get Born and 2006's Shine On — JET broke out of their native Australia and established themselves as a multi-platinum, international success story, merging the charisma and energy of classic rock and roll with just enough punk swagger and contemporary flair to create something uniquely theirs. Here at last is a band that's returning the cool to rock and roll.
2009's Shaka Rock reveals new dimensions of JET while never losing the raw roots of Get Born or the grace and melody of Shine On, which together went on to make JET an international band of style and substance. In the writing and recording of Shaka Rock, which took place in Miami, Brooklyn, Austin, Sydney and Melbourne, the band worked hard to create 12 finely crafted tracks that owe as much to JET's past as to their future. The band also stepped up to the plate in the studio, working side by side as co-producers with Chris "Frenchie" Smith to ensure that Shaka Rock would live up to their own expectations. Says Mark Wilson, "This time, the album wasn't dictated by a producer or a record company. It was dictated by us. Going in this time, we were a lot more comfortable about taking the reins and being in control."
The album is highlighted by tracks like the first single, "She's A Genius" a lighthearted take on the band's appreciation of women, giving new meaning to the phrase, and "Black Hearts (On Fire)" about which songwriter Chris Cester observes, "Greed and power are fascinating things... in some ways, "Black Hearts" is just putting them under the microscope. Power is a slippery slope. It's a song about sliding out of control, losing yourself to something, whether its real or not... we all know what that feels like, it's frightening, but it makes you feel alive."
Chris continues, "I think Shaka Rock is like when TV went color. It's our musical equivalent. There are moments on this record that are just pure... and moments that just rock harder than we ever have before. "Start the Show" is easily the heaviest song we've ever committed to tape. "K. I.A" (which can be heard on the viral video spreading over the internet) has the drama of film, in a three-minute song. "Beat On Repeat," well, that's about as Australian as it gets for us --- it's cheeky, conversational almost, its having a laugh at how ridiculously repetitive our society is, how it keeps on going down the same roads to end up at the same conclusions. We never would have had the balls years ago. There's also some storytelling that's come back again, like "Goodbye Hollywood." I like to think of it as our kiss-off to our past and it really sums up the forward thinking... go-go, don't think twice attitude that we had making this album."
JET first gained notoriety in 2002 with their self-released EP, Dirty Sweet. An initial run of 1000 copies in Australia soon led to another 1000 based on U. K. demand. Following the U. S. release of the record in 2003, JET landed the coveted opening slot on the Rolling Stones' Australian tour. Just months later came the critically acclaimed Get Born. That album produced the runaway hit single "Are You Gonna Be My Girl," spurred by its inclusion in the second ever iTunes ad and was the catalyst for record sales that hit 4 million. All Music Guide compared JET to "a mix between the White Stripes' bluesy insouciance and AC/DC's cockeyed swagger," and Entertainment Weekly noted, "The overall aesthetic is young, loud . . .." With this recording, JET swept the Australian Record Industry Association awards with seven nominations and six wins including album and single of the year.
As JET began working on Shine On, Nic and Chris Cester were felled by the tragic loss of their father, who inspired the album's title track. While the band pushed forward to create their album, bereavement enveloped them, making Shine On in some cases a misunderstood project. "For me Shine On was a deeply personal and intense album in which the writing and recording process became an outlet of expression for changing understanding of what was happening around us," says Nic, "In that regard it was incredibly important and cathartic and allowed our collective songwriting to advance, but was not what most fans were expecting." Shine On debuted at No. 16 on the U. S. charts and at No. 3 on the Australian charts. While garnering mixed critical reviews, Shine On was praised by numerous publications. Q Magazine called it as "new old rock at its finest" and New Musical Express best summed it up by noting, "If you get a kick out of glorious, ragged old rock 'n' roll, then you'll consider it essential."
Back in songwriting and studio mode after relentless touring, the members of JET were reenergized and ready to pick up where Get Born left off. From the moment the band began demoing their new songs for what would become Shaka Rock, they knew the importance of putting JET's fingerprint on every note. "We wanted to see how far we could push, and how different we could get it to sound yet still sound like JET," Muncey explains.
"We're all in a good spot," Wilson agrees. "We've taken on a different role. We're more hands-on and more accountable, more nervous and wide-eyed about it. This record was more fun as well; making music that's upbeat and enjoyable makes us feel excited."
Fueled by their passion for raucous hard rock one moment and a love for piano-driven melodies the next, the band felt a key was to pay attention to the details of the simplicity without ever compromising the true spirit of rock and roll. "We don't have the inclination to do just one thing," says Cam. "The songs on this album are different; we got into different forays and adventures. We use technology, but at the same time we use vintage gear. We write songs on the computer, but the best thing is when we bring them into the room, all four of us with our instruments, and just play. We judge the song on whether it's good enough, not on its style. You have to be savvy about things and not sound like everything else around you, but also not sound like an antique. All any band hopes for is to carve out a niche, explore within your own world that you create."
"The one thing I really love about this band is its honesty," says Nic. "For better or worse every album is a real and accurate window into how we are reacting to our lives in that point in time which is why every album is uniquely different, and I think Shaka Rock is the most honest so far."