It’s been a while since we heard that full-throated, unapologetic, 90s rock and roll in the clubs. The remaining acts are mostly playing arenas / amphitheaters / festivals or have shuffled off into middle age accompanied by tinnitus and flannel-clad memories. And quite likely, they’re playing that album they released in 1991/1992/etc. in its entirety, celebrating the fact that their fans can now afford more t-shirts than they could 20 years ago even while apparently not being able to afford albums. While it’s been sufficiently long since those grungy days for plaid shirts to reassert themselves within hipsterdom, anthemic rock and roll fun has yet to make its reappearance en masse.
So, when the opportunity occurs to hear that not-so-old timey rock and roll, you have to take it. Now, this is a bit of a hedge, because The Jealous Sound wasn’t of the 90s; the Los Angeles band first formed in 2000 and has more or less existed since then in various iterations and with various degrees of activity. They may fit a bit more in that Jimmy Eat World early 2000s emo grouping than with 90s rock, but the live show…it’s a rock show. And the 90s were about the revitalization of rock.
Frontman Blair Sheehan is the only original member in the current edition of the band. His distinctive voice holds notes more than spitting them out, and between his lyrical enunciation and the bands guitar stylings, a cousinly comparison to Catherine Wheel seems appropriate. And Catherine Wheel, most certainly, was 90s (Brit) rock at its finest.
Sheehan doesn’t look 25 – he isn’t – and in fact he looks something like a cancer patient. We hope he isn’t, obviously, but there is something a bit incongruous about a rock show when you’re worried about the health of the singer for reasons that aren’t “too many drinks, too many drugs, too many groupies.” (Until the early 80s and the AIDS epidemic, “too many groupies” could not be characterized as a health concern for rock gods). But uninformed health concerns aside…The Jealous Sound rocks, and rocks hard. It’s rock with the low register Fender bass and the high register Gibson guitar. It’s rock that’s all about the build and release and build and release and build once again. It’s rock that makes you think, “Holy hell…where has this been?” And it’s tight…so tight. This kind of delivery is a lost art, one worth missing and romanticizing in the way that aging men romanticize those girls that just-stay-the-same-age, albeit without any pretense of romance.
Their steady crescendos build symbolically within their compositions and aid the rawness of those moments, that rawness of pure rock and roll. They go Daniel-san on the audience with the hard and the soft, the soft and the hard, and earn a black belt in that martial guitar art.
The show isn’t a perfect one; one could quibble and wish that they looked a bit more “into it” the entire set, or that they played longer, but ultimately The Jealous Sound delivered a strong set that awakened the inner teenager and left the audience wanting more of their evocative songs and longing for the reassertion of primal, guitar-driven rock and roll.