Third Album Syndrome
Safe Travels, Jukebox the Ghost’s newest album, is out this month. I’ve finally got the chance to give it a listen, and I’m sad to report that Jukebox has fallen ill to what I’ll call “Third Album Syndrome”.
The album, their third, lacks the upbeat, happy that hooked me into Jukebox about a year ago. With Let Live and Let Ghosts and Everything Under the Sun, Jukebox crafted a masterpiece that I can listen to on repeat for hours and never tire of. The only other band that’s captured me in such a way is Vampire Weekend. I’ve actually drawn several comparisons between the two groups: in both cases, the first album contained many great singles that are fantastic to listen to on their own. Both band’s sophomore albums contained more mature tracks and more cohesive albums that are enjoyed best when listen to as a whole. And with both bands, their songs (at least on a surface level) talked about inconsequential topics (commas, UFOs) that might be a bit obscure, but — importantly — aren’t whiny, bitchy, or moany.
Safe Travels, on the other hand, is definitively serious. I’m not necessarily even referring to the lyrics, but to the songs in general. There’s a certain moodiness and angst to the entire album1 that makes it a much less fun to listen to, and Jukebox the Ghost’s fun was one of its best attributes. “Everybody Knows”, the twelfth track from Safe Travels is the notable exception and my favorite track from the album. It manages to capture some of the magic of “Schizophrenia” and “Hold It In”. So there’s hope.
This is a blind and probably ignorant/arrogant assumption, but I get the impression that young (or maybe just small) bands think that at a certain point they need to “get serious” with their music. The problem is that their Hakuna Matata-nature2 is what we fell in love with in the first place, and if you change that, what do you have left? That’s what I call “Third Album Syndrome”, and I hope Jukebox can come back from it.
Perhaps I haven’t given this album enough time, and perhaps my opinion will change like it did with Contra. I still love Jukebox’s non-standard instrumentation and Ben Thornewill’s vocals, but I am concerned for album number four, and worried about Vampire Weekend’s third.