The Jealous Sound: There is hope for rock music

By Meghan Zuck
May 27, 2004

I walk into a small club and struggle to get through the crowd, which is packed and strangely diverse. I gently elbow my way to a center-stage view and wait patiently. Not five minutes later, The Jealous Sound walks on and the crowd that has tightly gathered around the front of the stage goes wild. With an opening guitar riff, there stands lead singer/guitarist Blair Shehan, who sports a shaved head, collared shirt and a smile.

“There is hope for us/There is distance between you and I/We have just enough/And it comes as no surprise/I was in between/You were matches and Kerosene.”

The lyrics flow with an innate quality of sorrow, which seems to resonate inside me, sending a chill up my spine. Although the words have depth, the feel of the performance is very lighthearted, with lots of commentary and jokes between songs.

The show continues with old songs from the band’s self-titled debut EP and from their full-length album, which, judging from the bobbing heads, seems to be loved by all. Maybe it’s the screaming teenager in me, or the way Blair flutters his eyes when he sings, but there is something magical about tonight. After I hear the last song, congratulate the band on a job well done and take a few pictures, I walk out and think to myself what a good $8 night out I had, and ponder the rising stardom of one of my favorite bands.

The Jealous Sound, like many other sensational struggling bands in the indie rock scene, has had its share of turbulence on the way to success. For a band whose first full-length release was in doubt for quite some time, it is no surprise that their first album in three years, “Kill Them with Kindness,” was so widely anticipated and eagerly accepted by their rapidly growing fan base.

“The J Sound,” as they nicknamed themselves, hails from Los Angeles and is becoming the next buzz in the scene for its “indie pop”-inspired catchy choruses accompanied by layered guitar and breathy vocals. Singer/guitarist Blair Shehan, original front man of Knapsack; guitarist Pedro Benito, formerly of Sunday’s Best; bassist John McGinnis from Neither Trumpets Nor Drums; and drummer Adam Wade of Jawbox and Shudder to Think all consider their 2003 release well worth the wait.

The hard-working band with a small but loyal following put out its debut EP on Better Looking Records in 2000 and sold 11,000 copies of the five-song recording, which was originally supposed to be only a demo.

The J Sound then hit a snag that would have ended most bands. The major label they had signed with would not release the band from contract but would not let them put out a record. But after working out their legal troubles and once again joining forces with Better Looking Records, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and the light is shining brighter than ever.

“Kill Them with Kindness” has a more polished, gritty sound that still holds true to the original raw, melodic EP of 2000. This album features 12 tracks, including a new version of “Anxious Arms,” a crowd favorite that’s also on the EP. Practically every song has hit potential, and there is a video now out for “The Fold Out,” which is the best song on the album, in my opinion.

The feeling throughout the album changes from melancholy to hopeful and back to sadness on the edge of desperation. The rich tone and simple chords makes this album completely representative of a talented band, and more importantly, great music. It is the simplicity of the music that is appealing, with no fluff added instrumentally and no emotion left hidden. The tone shifts a bit with the use of different instruments such as the synthesizer in “The Fold Out,” which gives the song a dark and sinister vibe.

The Jealous Sound’s music is not emo, not indie, not anything you have likely heard before. Shehan’s raspy renditions of pain force the music to boom inside of you, causing a lingering in the ears that leaves the listener craving more. These thought-provoking lyrics, ranging in subject from loss to love to drugs, let you enter the world of a tortured white suburban soul with tidbits such as “I haven’t got a prayer/And you’re small and feeling used/Stare and stay confused/Don’t say what we’ve become” from the track “What’s Wrong is Everywhere.”

You can almost make out the future of The Jealous Sound while standing in the crowd of a cramped nightclub called Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco. Attendance has risen dramatically, and the age spectrum has lowered as well. The J Sound has come from headlining these intimate venues for $8 a ticket to opening for Foo Fighters and Yellowcard at sold-out concert halls, and this seems to be only the beginning.

Their sound is that of a reformed indie/punk group with melodic depth, and only time will tell if this band will shed the shackles of the unknown and become full-fledged rock stars. The music speaks for itself, and my guess would be that you will see and hear a lot more from The Jealous Sound.

Related link: The Jealous Sound's official site
Related link: Better Looking Records