The Airborne Toxic Event Self Titled CD

Written by on May 13, 2010 in May 13, 2010, Music Reviews - Comments Off on The Airborne Toxic Event Self Titled CD

on Island/Def Jam Records

Los Angeles indie-rock band the phenomenal Airborne Toxic Event has released their self-titled debut CD on Island/Def Jam Records with clever lyrics and powerful phrasing. This 5-piece outfit takes a poetic bent on love life which at times can prove to be disastrous and bleak but rings honest and truthful.

Their breakout single, “Sometime Around Midnight,” was essentially a poem set to music describing the desperate inner monologue of a man (Singer/songwriter Mikel Jollett) seeing lost love at a bar with someone else sitting by his lover. This song quickly became one of the most requested songs on both KROQ (the biggest rock radio station in the world and Indie 103.1) despite the fact that the song basically had no “chorus” or “hook.”  At the time the record was getting a lot of airplay the band had no label, no manager, no publicist, no radio promoter, and no distribution. Both radio stations were spinning an unmastered mp3 of the song, barely three weeks after it had been recorded.

Two years earlier, Jollett had a terrible turn of events that had a profound impact on his writing style. He saw his mother diagnosed with cancer, he in turn was diagnosed with a genetic autoimmune disease, he and his long-term girlfriend broke up, and after camping out in the hospital for several days by his mother’s side, he came down with pneumonia.

Jollett, a published author suddenly found himself with a mad desire to do nothing but to play music which he did alone in his apartment every day for the next year. While he continued to write prose he realized at some point he was writing a rock and roll record instead of a book.

Jollet’s music is intensely personal where he essentially is cutting open his veins and letting the lyrics spill out. After writing some time alone he connected up with the other members of the band the drummer and the bassist both schooled in punk rock (Daren Taylor/drummer, and Noah Harmon/bassist) and fellow writer guitarist (Steve Chen) rounding out the band Anna Bulbrook/violinist/singer and piano player.  Airborne quickly developed a reputation for cathartic, wailing live shows and many fans dancing to their unique music. It was this feeling of catharsis the live energy created by the soaring jagged songs that the band captured in the studio.

This album is scathingly truthful and beautifully deep about being dumped and finding the energy to carry on in the face of unimaginable difficulties. The lead track, “Wishing Well,” has ambient sounds about the troubles in a difficult relationship and leaving things up to fate. “Papillion,” feels like they are channeling the Clash where Jolett realizes that he may have done something wrong now that his love is gone. It has striking punk vibes and a sincere impression.

“Happiness Is Overrated,” finds comfort in the ceiling tiles and difficulty in an imploding relationship gone wrong. He’s just happy to be alone. “Does This Mean You’re Moving On,” has some raucous melodies and faces confrontation head on explaining the fear one has when scared about the lovers friends all hating him. The hit single, “Sometime Around Midnight,” with this sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach as the world collapses around you rings completely honest and true signaling the success of this song. “Innocence,” rounds out the rest of the disc with sweet sounding violin and dizzying synthesizers.

Jollett having discovered the postmodern writer Don DeLillo’s novel “White Noise,” the band took its name from a section of the book in which the main character is exposed to an enormous chemical explosion —  dubbed by the media Orwellian double speak: “the Airborne Toxic Event.” As a result of being exposed to the cloud, he is told that he is going to die. This realization changes him, making his life, his relationships, his desires, more vital, more real, more alive. The cloud becomes a living metaphor for the fear of death and how this transforms him. The band thought it might make an appropriate band name.

As this music was being created and the band extensively touring soon the upstart West Coast indie imprint Majordomo offered the band a partnership indie deal (structured much like that of Radiohead’s progressive deal with TBD) so they took it. Throughout the spring, as records sold out in stores in the States and demand grew overseas, the band was pursued by major labels, but it wasn’t until Island/Def Jam Records offered the band the right deal.(including the prerequisite that they remain partners with Majordomo and the record would not be changed) that they accepted. It was a unique record deal in the modern music industry, allowing the largest record label in the world to put out what is essentially a home recording.

The Airborne Toxic Event are neither icons, nor saviors (they would say, “there’s nothing to save, it saved us,”), nor pop stars, non disinterested hipsters…They’re just a group of friends traveling from place to place, playing oddly redemptive songs, written during some oddly painful times. While their music is cathartic it is also very honest and truthful and that is exactly why it rings true to their scores of fellow devotes. For more on the Airborne Toxic Event please go to