American Jetset: ‘Love Kills’ EP

Released on February 14, 2023 (Big Curve Music)

Returning with their fourth release in roughly five years, American Jetset dropped their concept EP Love Kills on February 14th, 2023, via Big Curve Music. In that short time, American Jetset have steadily risen in popularity to become one of Maryland / Virginia’s brightest prospects to resuscitate the area’s dwindling music scene. In that short time, they’ve steadily cranked out a series of EPs that embody straight-up rock n’ roll with qualities that evoke a past era, where danger and debauchery were bullet points synonymous with the art form. Rude guitar riffs, bombastic drums, and snarling lead vocals have all been on their calling card since day one, and Love Kills is a continuation of that mantra while charting some new territory for the band.

An advance press release touted this effort as “the soundtrack to the slasher flick in your head – the score to a horror film that never existed”. Those early marketing ads for the EP also teased that “Valentine’s Day is when the Monsters play” and offered a track listing for the forthcoming concept CD/LP. “Bondage”, “Revenge”, “Murder”, and “Mourning” were the four ambiguous phrases spelled out on the ominous poster. Much like the four horsemen plotting an attack, these themes of human depravity and frailty tie into the four new compositions that our horror story is centered around.  With the media blitz placing emphasis on the phrase “Monsters” (plural), I took a “stab” and surmised that each of the songs on the recording are centered around a Valentine’s Day-in-the-life of four fans. Love makes us do crazy things, huh? Whatever happened to the good old days when rock n’ roll bands stuck to writing about sex, drugs, disenfranchised youth, and the downfall of established religion? For those of you pondering on a playlist to crank up while you plot the demise of an annoying girlfriend or drive a shiv like Jason Vorhees, look no farther than this new release from one of the Maryland / Virginia’s finest up and coming hard rock bands.

All joking aside, American Jetset have quickly followed up their 2022 release Cat’s Got Your Tongue with yet another dose of pop gems cleverly embedded within flashy hard rock attributes. For evidence of this technique that they oft employ, run a google search for the lullaby version of their 2020 song “Getaway Car”. At their core, the structures of most well-written songs do transcend genres, and it’s a practice that American Jetset have knowingly or unknowingly implemented once again on Love Kills. This EP seems like it came from out of nowhere too but is nonetheless a cool surprise for fans of the band waiting for new music. Considering their previous album hasn’t even been out for a year, I was definitely taken off-guard when I saw that Jetset were about to give us even more new music. Talk about prolific.

Evoking an agonizing scream, “Black Hearts & Bloody Bruises” arrives like a chugging beast right out of the gate. It opens with a dirty, Ted Nugent-inspired riff that brings “Cat Scratch Fever” to mind before kicking that notion to the side with a spiraling lead guitar riff that quickly brings things to a boil. Vocalist Ian Kaine MacGregor convincingly adopts a different persona altogether as he sings to a potential victim or partner – I’m not sure which. Therein lies the kinky dichotomy of bondage I suppose. In any event, the theme is well conveyed here lyrically and musically.  When he sings “but what you need is to be unbound / so I’ll cut you down”, there isn’t much, well anything, left to the imagination. Despite the darker lyrical content found on this song and throughout the EP, it’s important to note that this is all tongue in cheek and delivered with a wink and a smile. Or is it? The track culminates into a whirlwind of six-string wizardry backed by the relentless percussion of drummer Jeff Bradford.

As our soundtrack to the slaying of Cupid continues, we’re reminded that revenge is a dish best served cold, and “Kill Thrill City” conveys that to the nth degree. Save for the electronic pulse that opens, underscores, and closes the song, “Kill Thrill City” isn’t too far off the map from anything found on predecessor Cat’s Got Your Tongue. Subtle effects such as these actually work for this band and give this particular song even more character. These little touches also demonstrate growth – evidence that the band is experimenting and pushing their artistic boundaries rather than just churning out the same music over and over. American Jetset haven’t suddenly gone electronica. This is done within the context of the song and to personify the motif of the seeker. Lyrically, we’re left to wonder what horrors our protagonist has suffered to warrant the vengeance that’s about to be delivered in this dramatic, sweeping number. New guitarist Skinz Skinsacos keeps things organic and lays down some wild guitar licks here and elsewhere on Love Kills, closing out the four-minute song with a blistering lead.

Props to both Skinz and Ian Kaine MacGregor – they absolutely tear it up with the guitar work on the EP and their playing elevates it to another level. The advance MP3 version of the album doesn’t make it clear who is playing exactly which parts, but the leads are nothing short of stellar. Things are no less interesting as the album progresses. As the clock strikes midnight, the faint toll of a bell signals an impending demise. Of the lot, I’d have to say that “Final Girls” is the most aligned with the band’s past works and one that fans will most likely find to be a kindred spirit with older material in the Jetset discography. At first listen, this is the song that immediately grabbed my attention and one that I would estimate is the most accessible among the four tracks. It has those big “whoa oh’s” that the band is famous for, rendering the song a surefire contender for most-listens across streaming platforms. Much like “Kill Thrill City”, “Final Girls” isn’t too far removed stylistically from what fans have come to expect from the band.

Reading the press release that the band had gone “nose down into darker and more dangerous depths” had me a tad bit concerned that the band were taking a sharp left with their sound, but rest assured that isn’t the case at all. Much like they’ve done with past releases, Love Kills sticks to a winning formula and parallels the rest of the band’s catalog, with a few broader influences incorporated into the mix which ultimately go the distance in the direction that they were shooting for with this project. To that end, “Long Road To Nowhere” follows another pattern that began with 2020’s Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop and wraps things up with this Jazz/Americana infused ballad. It opens with reflective lead vocals over an eerie passage of piano keys, silhouetted by the lonely howl of a saxophone in the distance. The woodwind uniquely fills out the framework of the song and gives it greater breath.

On one hand, I can count the number of hard rock bands that have made effective use of the saxophone in their work (Extreme, Black Sabbath, Soundgarden, Queensrÿche) and Jetset are now among that very elite list.  I had no idea that bassist Kevin Harrington was a multi-instrumentalist, but this performance put a cool spin on the final act. Equally impressive is the soulful guitar work that overtakes the song near its finale and ultimately brings it home. Skinsacos’ solo fully expresses the sense of mourning that they were going for. For me personally, this cut (pun intended) harkens back to the single “We Will Remember”, which the band released early on in their career.

Clocking in at around fifteen minutes of play time from start to finish, Love Kills successfully tells the four short stories alluded to in previews but will leave listeners awaiting a sequel. Truth be told, I could have handled another song or two. With that being said, I regard the EP as an Easter egg that we, the fans, weren’t expecting but should serve to tide the Monsters over until the band release their next album. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to hearing these songs live as the band embarks on their first international tour in support of the record.

And by all accounts, Love Kills is a bloody good disc that fans both home and abroad will find to be a cut above. Centered around an original idea, the album forays into another side of the Jetset collective while exhibiting intriguing storytelling and another facet to their brand. If the guys ever decide to put the band on ice, they have a bright future in scoring films. American Jetset are masters at marketing and have executed the idea behind this conceptual EP with great results. So, sharpen those knives, skip the chocolate and jewelry, and treat your girl to a bouquet of black roses and some “killer” new music this year.

Track List:
01. Black Hearts & Bloody Bruises
02. Kill Thrill City
03. Final Girls
04. Long Road To Nowhere

Band Members:
Ian Kaine MacGregor
– vocals, guitar
Skinz Skinsacos – lead guitar, backing vocals
Kevin Harrington – bass, sax, backing vocals
Jeff Bradford – drums, percussion

Additional Musicians:
Produced by Tony Correlli and Ian Kaine MacGregor
Engineered and mastered by Tony Correlli

Band Websites:
Big Curve Music

Reviewed by Jeff Onorato for Sleaze Roxx, February 2023

American Jetset‘s “Black Hearts & Bloody Bruises” lyric video: