Jetpack Blues

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The anticipation that greeted Polara in its early days dissolves into a formulaic and, worse, dispirited performance on Jetpack Blues. The sound doesn't vary much; each track feels sleek and streamlined, with massive textural depth. Guitars roar, drums pound, synth pads shimmer, and vocal harmonies float overhead, oddly detached. Yet for all the wattage that this music consumes, passion flickers only occasionally. In fact, its primary reference is stadium rock, the sound that once drove younger bands toward the low-tech, high-cred seductions of punk and grunge. The opening cut, "Can't Get Over You," even seems mixed to evoke the din of an open-air concert heard from a distance, with the singing buried under instrumental billows. Ackerson's writing is similarly uninspired. There are hooks, but none of them stick, maybe because of the number of drummers who parade through these cuts: With no one's individual brand on the beat, the band never locks in. There are obviously words as well, but they can dribble down to slogans whose meanings don't necessarily clarify with repetition: The more Ackerson sings, "I'm not afraid to get higher," during the outro of "Wig On," the more dopey it feels. Jetpack Blues isn't a dud, but neither is it anywhere near what observers once expected of this band.

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