Smile Politely

Album review: Jet W. Lee’s Who Shall Remain Shameless

On Friday, Feb. 5, Jet W. Lee joins the slew of local artists who have had recent album releases with the (second) release party for their debut LP Who Shall Remain Shameless.

With the band citing dual “citizenship” between Chicago and Champaign, the Mike ‘n’ Molly’s celebration will be the official C-U release for the ten-track album. The show starts at 10 p.m., and cover is $5. Joined by Chicago’s The Safes and C-U locals JigGsaw, Who Shall Remain Shameless will be available for purchase on both vinyl and digital download — an increasingly common combination given the diminishing popularity of CDs.

When listening to an album for the first time, particularly if the artist is unfamiliar to me, I try not to read too heavily into the band’s influences and favorite acts for fear of playing a game of “spot the tribute to (insert band name here)” and missing the sound of the artist themselves. And with Who Shall Remain Shameless, I am glad I was able to set preconceived notions aside. While on the one hand, I can entirely grasp the elements of Neil Young inspired, country-tinged rock — harmonica and all — on tracks like “Starry State of Mind” and “When Beauty Met The Blues,” I found myself more drawn to a vibe of ’80s alternative rock a la Husker Du or The Replacements as in opener “Anticipation High.”

With vinyl as the format of choice for the initial release, Who Shall Remain Shameless has a definitive Side A and Side B and plays as such. Whereas Side A (tracks 1-5) is upbeat and quick, filled with repetitive, catchy choruses and memorable guitar parts — save for “Stay Thin,” possibly the heaviest track on the album — Side B (tracks 6-10) takes a more mellow route, recalling the previously mentioned elements of classic rock. While the first opening three tracks are by no means throwaways, my personal favorite is what follows in track 4, “New Mexico.” Over the course of the four-minute number, vocalist Jesse W. Johnson’s drawl calls to mind R.E.M.-era Michael Stipe while the surprisingly infectious harmonies of Johnson and Patrick Mangan beckon to be “shown the way.” Along with the instrumental heavy closer “Amelia,” the two tracks are standouts on an already positive album.

To put it simply, Jet W. Lee’s Who Shall Remain Shameless is a solid work of straightforward rock from the talented duo of Jesse W. Johnson and Patrick Mangan. Though the group has since been joined by bassist Pierre Achille, credit must be paid where it is due to the duo for the recorded output. Who Shall Remain Shameless works because of, not in spite of, a lack of frills and exaggerations, remaining true to a credible format of drum, bass and guitar (and harmonica!) Having yet to have caught the group live, I look forward to hearing the tracks from the group as a three-piece at Mike ‘n’ Molly’s on Friday night.

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