Change happens. This is a fact that most can agree upon and often accept over time. Some people even embrace it, seeing change as an outlet for discovery and invention. With Cruel to Be Young, Jonezetta did just this and then some.
Devoted fans of 2006's Popularity might find themselves checking and rechecking the album cover just to make sure they have the right band, or that it wasn't mislabeled. Yes, this is Jonezetta. No, it is not the same band. Since their debut album, former drummer Mick Parsons joined One Eleven Records artist Rookie of the Year, taking his funky dance beats with him. Newcomers Alex Warren (Drums) and Tyler Kemp (Keys) fill the void, but bring with them a completely different sound.
The biggest question going into this album though is, just how different is it? To put it simply, don't expect to dance much. Tracks revealed online leading up to the release of the album reveal a newer, softer Jonezetta. The band on Cruel to be Young is one that contemplates and takes more time, maybe even relaxes. Not that this change is bad. In fact, the best way to enjoy the album is to pretend that this isn't the same band that brought you Popularity; because it isn't.
At times, lead singer Robert Chisholm channels an inner softness akin to Coldplay's Chris Martin. His voice is soft at times, floating over tracks like "Paint & Picture" and "I Watched You, Out From Your Window" with ease. The addition of Kemp and his piano complement this, creating solid laid-back, mid-tempo alternative rock. As dancing takes the backseat, melody and musicianship take the forefront in a big way. The title track, "Cruel to Be Young," is a perfect example of this. As Chisholm eases into the first verse, the song builds and builds until it explodes into the chorus. Dynamic changes, as well as unforgettable melodies on each track, create an album nearly as impressive as the first in many ways.
Yet despite their new direction, Jonezetta doesn't disappoint fans of their old sound either. At times, "The Queen City Song" and "Busy Body," both with a sense of urgency not seen on the rest of the album, serve as a reminder to the days of Popularity. Chisholm's signature wail has not disappeared completely, but has rather been conserved to provide an even more dramatic effect.
As in Popularity, the band is lyrically all over the map. With songs about love and youth, Jonezetta remains lyrically cryptic when it comes to faith. At one point in the title track Chisholm contemplates, "God only knows what I think anymore. I write things down, don't know what for." This statement proves to be powerful in revealing a message that has always been present in Jonezetta's work; being real. No matter what each song is about, it is more than evident that it is from the heart. This realness is what makes Jonezetta so enjoyable no matter what they sound like.
Despite a departure from the fire that was characteristic of their early work, Jonezetta's Cruel to Be Young is worth a listen. And another listen. And another listen. And at that point it doesn't matter how different the album is; it's Jonezetta.- Review date: 9/14/08, written by Flip Choquette of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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