Airborne Toxic Event immune to bad reviews

Brandon Bills

Some people’s life stories are too ridiculous to be works of fiction. Such is the case with The Airborne Toxic Event’s lead singer, Mikel Jollett.

The Airborne Toxic Event was formed in 2006 as the result of one of the worst weeks ever. In a one-week period, Jollett, then a struggling writer, was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, experienced a break-up and learned that his mother was diagnosed with cancer. The stress drove Jollett to put aside the novel he was writing and start writing songs. He soon abandoned the novel completely and recruited the other four members of the band.

Since then, The Airborne Toxic Event has become the latest darling of the Los Angeles indie rock scene, the same scene that produced non-stop-listen-worthy Silversun Pickups. That association alone was all this reviewer needed to give their self-titled debut a listen.

The truth is, Jollett didn’t make a big leap when he changed careers, since his songs are short stories set to music.

The album opens with “Wishing Well,” a new wave infused song that is so upbeat, one might not immediately notice the song’s reference to suicide, thus setting the tone for an album about people living miserable lives.

The lyrics are smart enough to outweigh the depression factor. This shows in the Franz-Ferdinand-like “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” when Jollett asks: “When the words are wrong and you’re hanging on another guy’s arm, does this mean you’re moving on?”

By far the most beautiful and epic track is “Sometime Around Midnight,” opening with a violin solo before fading into the gloomy tale of a breakup.

Through all the depressing lyrics, there seems to be an underlying sense of hope. “Missy” illustrates this well with the line, “Maybe you could help me to get it right.” These characters seem to know that life doesn’t have to be so miserable, if only they could figure out how. Or, as stated in “Papillion,” “If I wasn’t such a mess.”

As the debut album of a band that formed only two years ago, “The Airborne Toxic Event,” is a stand-out piece of work. The band has managed to combine post-punk music and poetic storytelling into 10 eclectic tunes worthy of repeated listening.