Following the dissolution of the Hurricane Lamps in 2004, singer/songwriter Eric Tischler quickly formed the Jet Age and released a fairly standard-issue power pop record called Breathless that was more pleasant than exciting. With their follow-up, a slightly rejiggered lineup of the Jet Age (now featuring ex Hurricane Lamps bandmate Greg Barrett as full-time bassist) has released a far more ambitious and musically successful album that dwarfs Tischler's previous work in both reach and grasp. In interviews surrounding the album's release, Tischler explained that in his early writing sessions, he wrote three songs in widely divergent musical styles: the instant-classic three-and-a-half minute manic pop thrill of "If I Had You Then, I'd Still Want You Now," a much darker song called "False Idols" with echoes of Love's more apocalyptic elegies for the death of hippie ideals, and a throwback to the jagged guitars and deadpan cool of mid-'90s indie rock called "Shake." Despairing at making the three songs logically fit on the same album, Tischler remembered a quote from his musical hero Pete Townshend, who claimed that songwriting always came easier if he had a brief to write to. Inspired by the idea of writing a Quadrophenia-like concept album, Tischler created a throughline for these three songs that was informed by his own political pessimism and fears about the safety of his wife and two children. As a result, What Did You Do During the War, Daddy? is the Townshend-esque story of a perfectly normal suburban husband and father who becomes so disillusioned with his government's actions that he martyrs himself as a suicide bomber at album's end. (In all interviews pertaining to the album, Tischler makes very clear that this is a work of fiction, and that he in no way advocates suicide bombing as a means of political protest.) As is usually the case with this sort of concept album, there are songs here that serve more to push the story forward than to be enjoyable on their own merits, such as the musically slight but story-rich "I Said Alright," and the tale as a whole is opaque enough that the listener is free to ignore the storyline almost entirely. The brashness of the performances, powered by Pete Nuswayer's energetic drumming and Tischler's own guitars and keyboards, recalls a fired-up blend of the Jam circa Setting Sons, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, and of course, Tischler's beloved Who, and the album works by itself as a solid collection of impassioned performances of smartly melodic pop tunes. The rest is just lagniappe.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason