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Album Review

STEALING JANE
The Signal

She's never gonna help me,” the EP begins, voice backed by muted plucked guitar, “She's always gonna be the backseat driver on the way to calamity” and with those words and ensuing building crescendo of towering Stealing Jane sound, Stealing Jane opens the door to angst, but not teen angst, God forbid. Angst for the masses. Like horsemen riding the romantic apocalypse, they trample every unrealistic notion created by pheremone and/or hormone and leave them crumbled in the dust. And it leaves you exhilarated!

(This video from 2008 and is a track off of the Say Something EP)

As ironic as it sounds, it really isn't. Love, as dominant as it is in our lives, is aluminum foil to life's steel and as much as we want to disregard that, we do so at our own expense and many times, the price is steep. Theme or thread, it is the core of The Signal, whether Bryce Larsen, who wrote the lyrics, meant it that way or not. It is a strange mix, romantic frailty and harsh reality, a mix most of us deny with every failed relationship. The fact that most of us live in Hollywood when it comes to love does not help. Devastation is devastation and trumps denial each and every time.

Song after song, the message is the same--- love gone wrong--- but this time, it isn't the pain but the process. Larsen might as well be saying, “it's not you, it's me” with every line and every phrase only in this case, it is true. Only romanticists are destroyed by a rejection from someone who is broken. Better to be done with it. The problem is, how? Even the lighter and jazz-oriented Parasite explores the problem when Larsen choruses “You need to realize that the parasite in your life seems to be the one you love” (he is singing about himself). “Please believe me when I say that I love you more than I love myself” is not cheap compensation as it is on virtually every song on the subject. It is admission. I'm going to destroy you, he says, and I hate it, but I can't walk away. If that ain't the bitch, I don't know what is. That is waiting for the bomb to drop and those of us who have been there know how stressful every minute of that is.

The emotional side is offset by some of the best horn work (and in this specific case, the synthesizer counterpart, if my ears are true) this side of Blood Sweat & Tears and Chicago. Wall of sound tower of power tidal waves of it. Like when the band hits the chorus of Life Support and Larsen wails “Doctor..” or the bridge leading to the final chorus of Mess or (my favorite) the chorus of You Let It Die, an angry requiem for what could have been--- tidal waves which reach the top without going over. Pounding bass, impassioned guitar, drums which you realize could never be replaced by a machine and keyboards all over the place in just the right amounts. Crescendos don't live in this environment, they thrive.

Musically, Stealing Jane could be the modern equivalent of Squeeze with sprinkles of Simple Minds and maybe Sting in bits and pieces, but they really don't sound like any of those. They have found that magical point in the music where it sounds like everything but is so damn good you just don't care. They are who they are and the world be damned!

I'll be honest with you and tell you that this is normally not my kind of music. I crave guitar in huge amounts and Matt Giordano's offerings normally would not fit the bill, but they do here. Leads are offered up in small quantities and are as tasty as they could be, short but sweet. Not a note wasted and enough to satisfy. It won't get him into the People's Choice guitarist Top 100, but that's only because the People wouldn't know a good guitar lick without the media telling them. And we all know how much credibility the media should have.

I saved this for last because I didn't want it to get in the way of my weak description of the music (it was meant to be heard, not described), but Bryce Larsen jumps to the head of Lyrics 101. Never have I been so impressed with lyrics. He shoots the hell out of my number one dictum, no “I, me, you.” Lyrics surrounding those three concepts can torpedo a song and sometimes a career in the blink of an eye. Welcome to an exception. With lyrics like “... you let it die/Just remember it was your own apathy/that ended what was meant to be” (You Let It Die) and “I'm such a mess/I don't know how you defend me/I would make such a great enemy” (Mess), he breaks rules while slamming it out of the park. Those aren't good lyrics, they are great lyrics. If you don't believe me, check full length versions of their songs out on their MySpace page. Or hit the lyrics section of their website.

Stealing Jane is from Sea Cliff NY. Sounds intriguing. Makes me want to fly out there just to see these guys. I think it might be well worth it, too, if just for the music.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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