CAT’S GOT YOUR TONGUE
Released on May 5, 2022 (Big Curve Music)
Seemingly from out of nowhere, American Jetset crash landed onto Baltimore’s music scene in 2019. The brainchild of frontman Ian Kaine MacGregor, they were a small glimmer of hope for what had, at best, become a dismal sonic landscape void of any new prospects given the once prestigious list of talent hatched from the Baltimore/Washington area. You’ll forgive the grim picture that I’ve painted, but in doing so you must also consider that Maryland and D.C. once spawned the likes of KIX, Wrathhild America, Child’s Play, Bad Brains, SR-71, Charm City Devils and Jimmie’s Chicken Shack to name but a few. Jetset were poised to take their place among that formidable list. They had clever song lyrics soaked in sleaze, nasty guitar riffs and solos that were executed to perfection. More importantly, a firm grasp on the realization that above all else the song is king. If the songwriting isn’t there, everything else is largely secondary. Even better, they could deliver the goods live with equal results. They released their brilliant debut Live, Love, Die On Main that same year and it quickly became one of my favorite albums of 2019.
2020 rolled around (I think you know where I’m headed with this) and American Jetset quickly released a follow-up, Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop, to capitalize on that buzz and momentum that they had already built through consistent touring and hard work. It was a mighty fine effort, expanding on their sound and incorporating new facets into what they were already doing. I’m reluctant to say that Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop has a southern rock tinge to it. However, there was a slight change in the weather with clouds coming in from that direction. Nonetheless, an all-around fantastic effort that only compliments their discography. And then, just as the record was unveiled and shows were being lined up to support it, the world of music hit a brick wall due to the pandemic. Any chances of supporting Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop on the road went right out the window. Truly a shame, given the work that they had put into the disc. Suffice it to say there was no mascara in the mask era.
Fast forward to 2022, and American Jetset are back with Cat’s Got Your Tongue. A seven-song album of brand new material that marks the rebound of a band which nearly succumbed to the vast pitfalls of a stalled music business. Our story begins with the short, opening intro of “3AM Charm City.” It feels tongue-in-cheek but sets the mood for what’s about to be served up. Leading track “Bombs Away” is a true declaration and opens with an infectious guitar lick and crashing cymbals to kick the album off on a very high note and get the adrenaline flowing. It’s got a chugging rhythm that’s accented by drummer Jeff Bradford’s relentless, hard-hitting beats. I can envision this song being a prime candidate for American Jetset to open up their shows with as the guys shout “Bombs Away” from the tops of their lungs. Those abundant “whoa oh” moments of the LP are like audible tattoos. Once you hear one, you’re stuck with it. Lyrically, the song hints at a severed relationship and features a blistering guitar solo.
New guitarist Skinz Skinsacos makes it apparent very early on in Cat’s Got Your Tongue that he’s out for blood and taking no prisoners. The guitar tracks performed in tandem by MacGregor and Skinsacos sizzle throughout the album. The title track “Cats Got Your Tongue” opens with a back-alley guitar lick that sways and snarls along to MacGregor’s barb-wired lyrical content and sinewy delivery. In terms of tempo, it’s a bit of a slowdown from predecessor “Bombs Away” but that big, snaking groove that drives the song will make it a winner with fans of the band’s first album. It pulsates in a way that will also likely render the song a strip club anthem in the years to come. “Tokyo Radio” takes a slight detour from there. From the moment that it hit my speakers, song #3 immediately fixated itself into my memory and is undoubtedly the catchiest four minutes of the entire album. The track is radio-ready with all of the key ingredients — big gang vocals you can shout along to at a concert, melodic guitar lines, and an emotive solo that’s just impolite enough to remind us where things stand. With the right stars aligned, I can see this song being a big single for the band and also a live staple as Jetset head out on the road to promote the album. Side note: the band commonly refer to their fans as “the Monsters”, and there’s a quick nod to them in this song.
“Falling Stars” is one of my fast favorites on the album. It’s big, it’s dramatic, it has moments of melancholy — it’s the big power ballad that will have you reaching for your lighter and singing along. I look forward to getting a physical copy of Cat’s Got Your Tongue to hear the more intricate nuances of the recording, such as the plunking bass notes in the first verse which are easy to miss with the MP3 version. The guitar notes also fly high on this one and are underscored by a brilliant solo. In fact, the same can be said of the musicianship throughout the entire record. The addition of guitarist Skinz Skinsacos, who recently replaced erstwhile guitarist T. Lance Reeder, is a perfect fit to the band.
“Save Somebody Else” follows and is another animal. It’s a dizzying mid-tempo number that serves as a warning. The guitar tracks are more rhythmic in this one and take a back seat to the hypnotic, chanted chorus that are mesmerizing. This is another song that I expect would be well-suited to the live treatment. As I listen back to the album for the first few times, I wonder if that was the intent in the songwriting process and that would seem like a logical assessment. There’s a faint laughter at the end of “Save Somebody Else” that fans of Live, Love Die On Main will quickly pick up on and find amusing. Coming around to the home plate, “Unwanted” feels more light-hearted than its predecessor while venturing into uncharted territory for American Jetset. Both the breaks in the song and jangly guitar sounds aren’t exactly what one would call a departure, but they feel new and unlike what I’ve heard from the band before. It all comes together with near-perfect vocal harmonies that are the crown jewels of the track.
As they did on their previous effort, Jetset wrap up Cat’s Got Your Tongue with a sweeping, Americana-style ballad that feels like farewell. And they do that very well. “Everafter” starts off with MacGregor singing nearly acapella-style over tinkering piano keys before the chorus comes crashing down, complete with weeping violins that add some movement and needed depth to the song. Off in the distance, faint gang-vocal chants can be heard at bay so as not to drown out the charm of the record in its final moments.
You’ve likely heard the story many times over, as told by dozens upon dozens in the music industry. They’re “back with their best album”. They’re “sounding better than ever”. The “highs and lows have only made them stronger and tighter as a unit”. I’ll spare you those claims, cliches and spin. In the case of American Jetset, no lip service is needed. They’re back with a stellar new album that’s a natural progression from where they started to where they’re going. Put simply, you’ll want to crank this CD up in your car all summer long and you’d be hard pressed to find anything negative to say about the music found herein. Cat got your tongue?
01. 3AM Charm City
02. Bombs Away
03. Cat’s Got Your Tongue
04. Tokyo Radio
05. Falling Satrs
07. Save Somebody Else
Ian Kaine MacGregor – vocals, guitar
Skinz Skinsacos – lead guitar
Kevin Harrington – bass, backing vocals
Jeff Bradford – drums, percussion
Produced by Tony Correlli
Reviewed by Jeff Onorato for Sleaze Roxx, May 2022
American Jetset‘s “Everafter” single:
American Jetset‘s “Tokyo Radio” single: