A postmortem defense of Jet

It might not seem like a big deal that much-maligned Australian band Jet announced their "discontinuation as a group" on Tuesday. Most of the people who will read this post had long ago written off Jet as sell-out, half-assed imitators who got lucky once, but we all know deep down that's not true.

You can say what you will about them (and everyone has a passionate opinion about this band one way or the other), but their breakup is more important than it may seem on its surface. Ultimately it may say more about music lovers/critics/bloggers, etc. as a whole than it does about the four men in the band itself.

Jet was one of the first bands of the '00s to get taken in by the fickle hipsters and then get their skulls crushed by that same group for doing what all bands want to do -- and sort of are supposed to do. They became wildly popular. Then, all the critics who hailed them as the second coming of AC/DC turned on them with venom so poisonous it could have wiped out an entire pack of Outback dingoes. It was sort of frightening to watch. 

"Cold Hard Bitch" -- which is four minutes of the best guitar licks Angus Young never played -- suddenly seemed to be everywhere, but not the "everywhere" discerning music fans are comfortable with. Everyone you knew suddenly seemed to own Get Born, and it was fun to play at parties and in the car and, well, anywhere. It showed up in a Budweiser commercial and was featured in the television show Alias.


It just wasn't the "right" kind of exposure, however. If it had been an ad for PBR or had reared itself in an episode of Lost, there would have been no griping, just declarations of how "cool" they were for being featured next to such "awesome" products. "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" suffered the same fate, being featured in (gasp!) Madden NFL 2004 and the admittedly horseshit Ashton Kutcher vehicle What Happens In Vegas, but despite it sounding like the Stooges -- and indeed better than many Stooges songs -- the wrath intensified.

To be fair, some of this was Jet's fault, as they seemed to be chasing the big paycheck by licensing their songs to things that were out of step with their fans, but somehow it just doesn't seem likely that, say, My Morning Jacket fans would abandon them if a clip of "Holdin' On to Black Metal" showed up on The Office, however unlikely that scenario might be.

But again, this is what bands are supposed to do. Jet had no other jobs. They didn't return home from touring to wash dishes in a restaurant or dole out parking tickets, they were and are musicians, and music is how they make their money. If someone drives a dump truck full of cash up to your front door, asks simply to borrow something you created for essentially zero input of your own money in return, and then lets you retain ownership when they're finished with it, you'd be hard-pressed not to do the same, given the people asking to borrow it aren't murderers or rapists.


But the hip set often doesn't see things that way. Jet probably likes Budweiser and video games -- many guys do. Music is a beautiful, amazing, wonderful invention, but its creators aren't in a tit-for-tat relationship with their fans, why this isn't intrinsically understood is confounding time and again.

By the time their sophomore effort, Shine On, rolled around in 2005, it was essentially over. Pitchfork decided it was best to post a video of a chimpanzee urinating in its own mouth as a review rather than actual words. If you mentioned that you liked Jet, people looked at you in the same way they would if you had said "I can't wait for a Beatles reunion." They presented themselves in an up-front manner, but by this time everyone had moved on to the idiotic irony of the Darkness and Wolfmother. How that happened is a mystery that Columbo couldn't crack. They made just one last run at it in 2009 (and if you can name the album without use of the internet, you should be working for NASA) and then Tuesday they packed it in for good.

The music industry didn't destroy this band, the public did. We all know that perception is reality but how this band was perceived as anything but a good band with fun songs and scorching guitar riffs is stunning. Fans hitched themselves to Jet's wagon, and when Jet started down a path the fans didn't like, these supporters turned the wagon over and pummeled the band with it. In essence, Jet's fans were the ones pissing in their own mouths.

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