The Airborne Toxic Event is an indie rock band out of California. Founding member Mikel Jollett is a writer by trade, which, to say the least is a difficult profession to get into; so him starting a rock band as a side project was a daring move. However it appears things have worked out for Jollett, The Airborne Toxic Event debut album did well enough to justify a career in music and their second album “All at Once” is very good. A new single is out now “Timeless” and while it is far from inspiring it is exactly good enough to keep the momentum alive.
I first noticed The Airborne Toxic Event through their radio tracks “Sometime around Midnight” and “All I ever Wanted” both songs are quite good and very emotional. Also both songs have the words of a very young man experiencing things for the very first time, the simple explanation to this might be that a very young man has written these lyrics, however knowing that lyricist Jollett is a writer first I had a moment of wonder as to why he used such a point blank approach. The more sophisticated a writer the more frequently they try to avoid saying exactly what they mean, not the case here. It could be The Airborne Toxic Event is a band that is all about show casing base emotion, and this is done effectively with examples just mentioned. There is method to this approach even though it can come across as immature at times, but it is not as if every Toxic Airborne Event song is the same.
I picked up “All at Once” in the winter of 2012; it had two songs I knew and liked on it “All I ever Wanted” and “Numb” so I took a chance. The best thing that can happen when you buy a CD only knowing a few songs is discovering that you like at least one song much more than any of the songs you were previously familiar with, which is exactly what happened to me with “All at Once.” There are two songs that flow together on the disc “The Kids are Ready to Die” and “Welcome to your Wedding Day” and this two song set is the best part of the entire album, which is saying a lot since “Numb” is a really good song. “The Kids are Ready to Die” with long echoing bass chords accompanied by a quiet acoustic guitar and gloomy grey words is the perfect way to build up to the faster heavier “Welcome to your Wedding Day.” And the chorus line really sinks in before the song’s end;
“The kids are lined up on the wall, and they’re ready to die”
“Welcome to your Wedding Day” almost plays like a marching song, at least the drum line does, but feels like something else altogether when the lead guitar shakes things up. But what makes this song so great is Jollett’s voice, he really has passion for what he is saying in this song, and the lyrics are just so rich;
“And you know it’s begun,
From the crack of the guns,
And the screams from the mouths of babes,
And we pray, as we’re watching the charade.
Welcome to your wedding day.”
As fantastic as a chorus as this is, what is he saying? Honestly, I am not entirely certain, both songs are in obvious protest against something but the specifics are not very clear. During a live performance while introducing “Welcome to your Wedding Day” Jollett said;
“This song is anit-Bush not anti America.”
Okay well that makes some sense at least we now know who The Airborne Toxic Event are protesting against. Granted Bush is an easy target, because he was really bad at his job and we all know it. Still the details are still rather unclear, what exactly about Bush has set Jollet off? I am sure it would all make perfect sense if Jollet explained point blank, like he has in some of his other songs however I am glad he has not. The deep yet ambiguous lyrics in this song allows room for interpretation and projection, and a song like this, a protest song, is something we all can relate to. Everyone wants to change the world in one way or another, and many of us are very passionate about it, by leaving things open, or unclear, Jollet has allowed us to project our desires for change onto this song.
Also a great line;
“We don’t negotiate with terror,
We only watch them beg.”
I am not sure whether the above line is meant to be admired because it is so bad ass or despised because it is meant to be interrupted as terrible, probably the later, but it is a bad ass thing to say nonetheless.
“All at Once” was the great surprise album for me last year. I did not expect it to be great, and yeah, it sort of is, and since it unlikely to ever get any radio play I highly recommend you heed my advice and listen to “Welcome to your Wedding Day.”
Until I get back from Europe, keep on rocking in the free world.
- Colin Kelly
You really should listen to "The Kids are ready to Die" before "Welcome to your Wedding Day," they belong together.