The Jet Age leader Eric Tischler explains the band’s new stark and dark concept album What Did You Do During the War, Daddy?
“Good songs played by a straightforward rock trio will always find their way into people’s playlists, regardless of what’s big at the moment. The Jet Age provides exactly that…” – Pitchfork
“The Jet Age is sure to please several kinds of rock fans: Punks will thrill to the fast tempos, classic rockers will dig the guitar heroics, indie kids will appreciate the deft musicianship and experimental sensibility, and power-pop aficionados will swoon to the ocean-sized hooks.” – Express
“The songs are ragged without being sloppy and bring to mind some of the best in the indie rock pantheon, whether it be Dinosaur Jr., with the distorted solos or Superchunk with Tischler’s high pitched, enthusiastic vocals.” – The Washington Post
Eric Tischler of The Jet Age on the band’s new album, What Did You Do During the War, Daddy?
There’s no easy way to put this, so here goes: What Did You Do During the War, Daddy? was conceived as the soundtrack to an imaginary musical that asks what is our (my) responsibility, as citizens, when our government is out of control. Bear with me.
While finishing 2006’s Breathless, I came up with the Stones-y riff of “If I Had You Then, I’d Still Want You Now.” Shortly thereafter, I wrote the stark, dark “Shake,” a fairly literal retelling of a nightmare I had about my son. Around the same time, I came up with the sinister funk™ of “False Idols,” a song about martyrs, revolution, and political messaging. Although three tunes do not an album make, I was concerned about how these songs would get along on one CD. Shortly thereafter, I read Pete Townshend’s claim that he found writing was much easier when he had a “brief” to write to, and suddenly the idea of CREATING a structure for this new record immediately made sense; I realized I already had a dramatic trajectory, from the euphoric gallop of “If I Had You Then…” (a song clearly sung by a family man) to the climax of “False Idols,” in which the narrator blows himself up in order to make the world a better place for his family.
Yes, this is the tragic tale of a revolutionary American suicide bomber. It sounds crazy when I write it, and I hope the widow’s lament (“Ladies, Don’t Cry Tonight”) that bookends this record makes it clear that I’m not advocating suicide bombing as a solution for anything, but drama provides a forum for discussing some dark ideas and, frankly, I really DON’T know what else I can do as a voting citizen to rectify the terrifying course our country has been set upon. As a father of two, that’s pretty fucking vexing, hence this album.
So, the story: The first act opens with “Ladies, Don’t Cry Tonight,” which establishes some background (there’s a war on) and serves as foreshadowing. “If I Had You Then …” is our introduction to the happy couple. “Dance” is about the importance of being true to — and comfortable with — one’s self, and is sung by the wife to the couple’s daughter. The husband, moved by this exchange, later serenades his wife with “O, Calendar”
However, while things may be happy at home, the world outside is anything but, hence the creeping dread in Act 2, starting with the nightmare of “Shake.” The negativity grows in “Dumb,” as our hero rants about his own passivity while his government is dumbing down half of the populace while keeping the other half complacent and thus complicit in its silence. The increasing awareness of the darkening world around him-and the threat it poses to his family’s future-leads our hero to align himself with a brewing underground movement in “I Said, ‘Alright.’”
In Act 3, the father has become engrossed in the plan to sacrifice himself in the opening salvo of the revolution. His inadvertent withdrawal from the family he wants to save prompts his wife to sing “Now We Are Three,” raising that ol’ brain teaser: Do the ends justify the means? In “False Idols,” our protagonist does, indeed, sacrifice himself, narrating the song from beyond the grave. The driving, bombastic-grandiose(?) ”Maybe Love’s a Transmission” is his (spectral) farewell to his wife, and hers to him. The record closes with a reprise of the widow’s lament but this time it’s for our protagonist’s family. Phew.
Despite my efforts to make the plot work, it was important to me that these songs would be able to stand on their own, too. The “musical” concept allowed me to write songs that spoke directly to the concerns I have without having to force myself to move the plot along incrementally; I assumed that dialog, some of which I almost recorded as interstitials, would handle some of the narrative work. So, outside the context of the record, “Maybe Love’s a Transmission” is still about losing a loved one, regardless of the cause of death. “Dumb,” I fear, is a topical rant; the first act is mostly love songs. In other words, this thing should be iPod friendly, but I want people to listen to the record front to back. Don Quixo-who?
The tunes: Yeah, my usual nods to The Who, Swervedriver, My Bloody Valentine, the New Zealand scene, etc. are all here; that’s my DNA and I’m proud of it. The range drummer Pete Nuwayser shows on this record is astonishing, from the C&W shuffle of “Ladies, Don’t Cry Tonight” to the no-holds-barred chaos of “O, Calendar” to the funky strut of “False Idols”; I don’t know of any drummer who covers so much ground in one band. But bass player Greg Bennett is the hero of this record. Apart from writing the music for shoegazer epic “Now We Are Three” (a riff so good we ultimately decided to just play it for three minutes), he drives these songs. Just listen to the climax of “I Said, ‘Alright’,” the turnarounds in “If I Had You Then…” the insistent throb in “O, Calendar.” The concept is mine, but the album’s power is the band’s. Regardless of whether people embrace the themes discussed herein or not, we hope and believe the appeal of the music itself is incontrovertible. Please, pass it on. – Eric Tischler, 2008.
What Did You Do During the War, Daddy? Tracklisting:
Stream The Album HERE
Release Date: 02.05.08
01. Ladies, Don’t Cry Tonight
02. If I Had You Then, I’d Still Want You Now
04. O, Calendar (MP3)
07. I Said, “Alright”
08. Now We Are Three
09. False Idols (MP3)
10. Maybe Love’s a Transmission
11. Ladies… (Reprise)