There's two ways I could approach reviewing the new album from Charlotte rock quintet JaggerMouth. I could play the part of the jaded rock critic that trashes the album for its lack of originality. I could be the guy who complains that it's not breaking any new ground and I've heard it all before — countless times over the last few decades. And sure, there's truth to all of that, but maybe that would be too easy?
Taken on its own, JaggerMouth's new full-length album, Synthetic Me, is a solid rock 'n' roll album full of upbeat rhythms, memorable hooks, shredding riffs and enough rock attitude to make you aware that they have talent far beyond the sense of originality.
There's subtleties contained within that give a hint at the band's — or producer's — bigger sonic awareness — a hand clap here, a muted chord there that work so well within the context of the song, adding just enough to keep you interested.
Throughout the rumbling rock, the vocals remain crisp in presentation — abandoning any kind of preconceived garage band sound the listener might expect.
It's music that's clearly influenced by a wide range of bands — from classic rock to modern sounds, borrowing heavily from the '90s. "Falling Up the Stairs" contains wandering guitar riffs in the background of the chorus that reminded me of Slash's meandering work a la Velvet Revolver. There's also plenty here that tends to borrow from The Cult. Though JaggerMouth comes across as a bit more grounded and less pretentious than both of those acts.
Look, if this album came out in 1995, the band would be headlining arenas without a doubt. In the modern age, the band gets credit for filling in a gap in the music landscape that's not often heard these days. That's not to say the songwriting isn't good — musically and lyrically — or that it sounds dated, per se. It just sounds a bit too familiar at times.
Synthetic Me is a fun listen that brings me back a couple decades, while holding out hope that rock continues to thrive — a middle finger to all the haters who constantly say that rock is dead. It's good enough to leave me wanting to hear more — especially in a live setting.