Just try to escape from these Jags

Take up the Endless fight
By NICHOLAS SCHROEDER  |  December 12, 2012

Show me a world where the good times never end, and I'll show you, in just a few hours' time, an epic hangover and a parking ticket. Youth in America has spent decades drinking deep the potions of rock and roll, and now its antidotes for the drudgeries of adult life don't pack quite the same punch. Even if rock music still is the great escape, no matter how dark the basement or bright the lights it hides us in, the real world always seems to drag us back.

It is this irreconcilable issue that most inspires the music of Endless Jags, a six-member modern rock band from Portland, whose debut EP takes up the dulled sword of the down-and-out hero and carves out an invigorating stock of rally cries. Its 21 minutes are a mini-monument of defiance, brotherhood, and celebration of glories both earned and unwarranted, as if to prove that the futility of rock immortality is only exceeded by the futility of pretending it doesn't exist.

While each of the record's six guitar-driven songs stand in testament to this, no other two-and-a-half minutes so clearly state the Jags' thesis than "Seen Men," the album's explosive, anthemic opener. We pick it up midgallop; its propulsive, Broken Social Scenic verse soaring into an unforgettable chorus and landing in a choir of gang vocal whoas. Even notwithstanding frontman Oscar Romero's wanderlust lyrics ("keep my back against the storm and lift"), it's a damn near perfect soundtrack for splitsville. That the song doesn't wrap until after a psychishly jittery, organ-driven shakeout fits what might be another Jags m.o.: if you're gonna hit the road, don't forget to bring the drugs.

With barreling rhythms and tortuous riffs, "Trade Show" is one of the most muscular songs that Tyler Jackson, Jags' other frontman, has ever written. Similarly concise and comparably paced, the album's second track claims much different territory than the scorching Romero song preceding it. That's not an accident. The double-barrelled songwriter approach is one of the band's strongest assets. In "B.A. Pariah," they even pull it off mid-song, as Jackson passes the torch midway through his would-be come-downer to a strident Romero, who exultantly rushes it into a rowdy conflagration.

A few listens strips the fuzz off of "Sound Drivers," the album's fourth and arguably best song, which sends Jonas Eule's firecracker drumming and some of Romero's best lyrics down a noisy Wilco-ish route. Unconcerned about wasting the song's central insight in the first line ("too old to grow up/I've had enough"), Romero's never been more believable than he is as "Sound Drivers" unfolds, relishing the syllables of "don't you wanna switch and trip a year in my shoes?/doesn't having nothing sweeten everything you do?" — which makes the irony sting all the sweeter when he damns himself in the song's final act.

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Related: Why we live here, Review: The Bad Plus's For All I Care, Exploring deep within, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Portland, Wilco, Oscar Romero,  More more >
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