The Jukebox Romantics’ third full-length album Transmissions Down was produced by long-time Bouncing Souls guitarist Pete Steinkopf. Within minutes I was reminded of the Souls, even before I was aware of the connection, although the Romantics have rougher vocals and more spastic drumming, neither or which are negatives.
Really, similarities abound between the Romantics and the Souls. Both east coast outfits (from Westchester/Orange county NY) mix a blend of melodic pop punk and street punk, evident here in Transmissions Down’s first track, “Living With Sin,” for which a video has been released. And even when yelling, neither band sounds all that upset – not nearly as angry as Rise Against surely is, another band the Romantics’ vocals are reminiscent of.
After two solid opening tracks, the album kicks it up a notch with the fast-paced “East Coast Communication.” “Human contact is what I crave,” sings front man Mike Terry, as the whole world has gone off the grid, rendering cell phones and the internet useless. “We can’t communicate anymore!” is the never-ending moan, perhaps serving as an indictment on this modern world’s dependency on electronics.
Song titles “All Grownups Are Pirates,” “We Kill Pirates,” and “Spilling Your Intestines” offer a playful side of The Jukebox Romantics. In the tradition of the early Bouncing Souls song “These Are The Quotes From Our Favorite 80’s Movies,” all three of these titles come from early-nineties Steven Spielberg films, the first two from the same scene in Hook, and the latter from the original Jurassic Park (an early description of a velociraptor’s killing methods: “slashes at you here, or here, or maybe across the belly, spilling your intestines.”) The lyrics aren’t always easy to understand, though I don’t believe the songs are actually about the movies; the quotes and lyrics are just similarly themed.
Transmissions Down is strong throughout, but the highlight perhaps comes at the finale. “Basement Song,” a potential anthem for the Romantics for years to come, clocks in at nearly four minutes, which is sort of long for a punk song, though more common at the end of an album. “We don’t give a fuck about our market, or how we might saturate it” – not a great mission statement if you’re starting a business, but it should make punk rock purists happy. “We wrote this song to play it”– I’m tempted to interpret this as a jab at bands who don’t play certain songs live because they tampered with effects too much in the recording studio and can’t pull them off on stage. “So book another show in the basement!” – ah, sweet nostalgia, and a strong finish to a solid effort.
In preparation for this review, I’ve listened to The Jukebox Romantics’ Transmissions Down (available digitally and on vinyl through Jailhouse Records) in its entirety a few times now. I like it. I think I’ll keep listening to it.
4 / 5 Stars