It’s not every day that I take suggestions for the blog. Surely, I might absorb songs in the scheme of everyday living, rifts of songs get lodged in the psyche, supermarket jams inevitably end up on high mental rotation and Top 40 charters work their way into the fabric of existence like febreze mist but, as ive found running a radio show over the last couple of months, taking input when it comes to music is rarely a good idea. Tonight, somewhere in Vermont, I’m accepting requests because I’ve had too few hours sleep, too many hours on the road, too much pita at dinner and am thoroughly exhausted. The prospect of seeking out new music is anathema to my way of thinking right about now and so when my host in skiing country offered some assistance, I jumped at the opportunity. Too seldom am I forced to actively think about music I might not otherwise be interested in and so, for today, that Australian band of bands, Jet, gets a workout from the most famous maple syrup state in the Union.
The Jet suggestion seemed a little out of left field in the first instance but recalling that their 2003 smash hit single was in fact a worldwide phenomenon back when electro wasn’t quite yet a thing and Australia’s overseas musical representation stretched from AC/DC to Savage Garden and back again, it made sense. Just as I was awkwardly serenaded with the Australian national anthem over dinner and quizzed about the playing surface at the Australian Open, people like to demonstrate their cultured ways by picking out local favourites in discussions about music. Jet, though, for all their short-lived international acclaim, are distinctly unAustralian (an adjective bandied about far too frequently). Before wolfmother were a thing – and then, just as explosively, not – the Cester boys of Melbourne were seen to be ripping off everyone from Iggy Pop to the White Stripes with this track, by far the most successful off their debut Get Born. Just when an Australian band finally had the global spotlight and a mic to its lips, the best thing they could put out was, allegedly, a hazy approximation of classic American rock. For a nation as young as ours, with a scene as burgeoning as it is, the tall poppy syndrome that cut Jet’s sophomore effort (that or their attempting to go Oasis moody on the whole thing) was always going to happen.
What was potentially more surprising was that this first album took off in the way it did. As much as the detractors might have lampooned the band for essentially being a vague approximation of so many obvious influences (and thus derivative), the ‘pub rock’ scene in Australia is so well established that the Jet sound could just as readily be classified as unoriginal. In that respect, there was no particular reason for ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’ to get any more traction than the hundreds of Motown-infused, swaggering tunes that came before it. And yet there was something in the track’s mix of latent vulnerability and cester’s raspy, brash vocals that took hold all around the globe and established the reputation of the four garage rock revivalists enough to shift 3.5 million units of the album it came with. For the very reason of its brief consumer buzz, I never really looked to ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’ as something I’d define my homeland by but praying for snow in the northeast, with scrabble and a fire place for company, it’s strangely warming to see the night out with Jet’s tambourine, the cester yell and that inimitable phrasing (big-black-boots).
American as apple pie. Australian as aggressive propositioning.
Jet – ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’