Band: The Airborne Toxic Event
Album: The Airborne Toxic Event
Release Date: August 5, 2008
The Airborne Toxic Event‘s debut album is a great example of what a first record should sound like. It is simultaneously a boisterous, rollicking rock ‘n’ roll record, and as depressing as a Sylvia Plath poem. It’s also a very personal, easily relatable record that gets better with each listen.
Doing a little independent research about the record, I discovered that when ATE went into the studio, they had over thirty songs at their disposal — which they then whittled down to 10. I find it amazing that they were able to build such a strong linear story from songs that could have been written at any point across a number of years.
From track one, “Wishing Well,” to the end of the album, there is a constant narrative built around a character going through a bit of a rough time. With his significant other gone, he’s turned to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain, and in his drug-fueled haze, he’s having a hard time seeing the forest for the trees.
The portraits that Mikel Jollett paints are beautiful and vivid. Take, for example, these words from the radio hit, “Sometime Around Midnight“:
And she leaves…
With someone you don’t know
But she makes sure you saw her
She looks right at you and bolts
As she walks out the door
Your blood boiling
Your stomach in ropes
And when your friends say what is it
You look like you’ve seen a ghost
If you’re familiar with the song, you know that immediately following that last line, the music swells to an explosion and we’re sonically introduced to our protagonist entering a free fall of the mind and soul. It’s a surprisingly deep song that I think gets overlooked because of its heavy radio play.
And this feeling I dread, it makes me wish I was dead
Or just alone instead, I’ll be alone instead
I don’t need anyone in my bed
Just these ceiling tiles falling through my head
…Well, it adds a dynamic that a lot of rock records lack.
But Airborne Toxic Event doesn’t just give us depressing lyrics to mope around with; they also provide some great, upbeat instrumentation to back it up. In fact, if you didn’t pay attention to the words, you may think this is kind of a party record.
With the exception of a couple of songs, everything moves along at a brisk pace, and it never sounds bogged down or trite. The band uses a lot of strings to add some deeper layers to the music, and they also reach out to a lot of different influences, like rockabilly, blues and chamber music.
The album’s almost two years old now, so we’ve had plenty of time to get to know it. I first heard it sometime in the middle of last year, and I passed on it. I thought, “Just another band that will have a couple hits on the radio and then fade away.” But when I revisited the album some months later, I found a deeper appreciation for it that has stuck with me ’til now.
If you’ve heard the record and gave up on it as I did, I encourage you to give it another try. If you haven’t heard it, good news! It’s readily available on iTunes, in major retail stores that sell CDs and, of course, their website!!! Check it out. I think you’ll dig it.
- The Airborne Toxic Event hails from Los Angeles. They are: Mikel Jollett, Steven Chen, Noah Harmon, Anna Bulbrook and Daren Taylor.
- Their self-titled album, The Airborne Toxic Event, is available for $11.99 on their official website.
- The band will play a sold-out show with The Calder Quartet (Los Angeles) on September 15 at Park West.
The Airborne Toxic Event performing “Sometime Around Midnight” on The Late Show with David Letterman