Big Jaw / Appetite for Construction
May 19, 2011
From note one of Big Jaw’s Appetite for Construction disc, it’s obvious that this Clint Roth fellow possesses massive recording chops. Not such a surprise, considering that the Fort Wayne native had a hand in tracking big-time albums by such luminaries as The Donnas, the Isley Brothers, Third Eye Blind and Barenaked Ladies, (just to name a few). But, it’s one thing to know your way around a mixing board and another thing entirely to make a great-sounding album of your own — complete with, you know, songs and stuff. Here, Roth (with help from monster drummer Adam Aaronson) delivers on all fronts. The album’s title may or may not be a sly nod to Roth’s time spent in L.A., but it certainly gleams like a sleek sports car in the sun.
There’s also a strong hint of SoCal songwriters/producers extraordinaire Jon Brion and Michael Penn seeping through, from the polished harmonies to the deceptively complex progressions in “One Thing.” Roth manages to pull off here what the best pop (and by “pop,” I mean “listenable, accessible rock” in the best possible way) songwriters do: create well-crafted, passionate songs packed chock full of hooks — and make it look easy.
Remember one-hit wonders Fastball and their, uh, one hit, “The Way?” There’s a starting point for you. In a perfect world, driving-yet-jangly gems like “Wait” would be blasting out of convertibles everywhere this summer. But, see, the vocals aren’t robotized and injected with auto-tuned sterility. There’s no hip-hop guest appearance in the middle. There is, however, an undeniable hook and a simple and universal sentiment (“I’ll wait for you”) at the center of the song.
And, as a bonus to you indie-cred scorekeepers out there, you even get some Sparklehorse-ish weirdness at the end. Bonus! Roth shifts gears on “Number 8,” which somehow simultaneously calls to mind Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” Stevie Wonders’ “Superstition” and maybe even a touch of “Bad Company” — yet it sounds utterly modern.
Big guitars are all over this album, and they’re especially prominent on the closing track, “We Can Have It All.” Kids, here’s proof that you don’t have to play metal to sound huge; this is absolutely arena-ready stuff. Let’s welcome this accomplished slice of L.A.-style power-pop into the heartland with open arms.