Note: This week we're featuring some of the bands performing at this year's South by Southwest music festival. This artist was originally featured in August, 2008.
On The Airborne Toxic Event's MySpace page, the band labels its genre as "ghettotech." The group's name conjures the image of a mopey emo-rock band. Both are far from the truth. The California quintet's self-titled debut is full of catchy and energetic, guitar-based rock that's awash in hooks and radio-ready melodies. The music falls in line with that of fellow new wave and post-punk revivalists such as Interpol, Hot Hot Heat and Franz Ferdinand. The Airborne Toxic Event's aggressive, jagged rock sound keeps the music edgy while harnessing elements of dance and Britpop.
"Wishing Well" opens with a sea of layered keyboard melodies reminiscent of the Cure and New Order, but quickly builds into huge, anthemic guitar rock. Like most good anthems, the track features the customary instrumental breakdown, complete with lead singer Mikel Jollett retreating to a whisper only to explode into catharsis, but the band pulls off the formula without sounding gimmicky.
"Gasoline" and "Does This Mean You're Moving On?" are jittery, dance-pop-inspired rock songs, complete with jumpy bass lines and sharp guitar stabs. "Gasoline" and "Happiness Is Overrated" are the album's catchiest tracks, packing twitchy guitars and Jollett's gritty vocals into tight three-minute gems.
The Airborne Toxic Event formed in 2006 and played its first live show two months later. Jollett rallied the group after turning from prose writing to songwriting. Before leading the band, he worked as a music journalist for a number of outlets, including NPR. (Read and listen to a few of his reviews here.)