Los Feliz, CA-based The Airborne Toxic Event recently released their debut album to critical acclaim and after hearing the album and seeing the band perform live, it’s easy to understand the praise. The band formed around front man Mike Jollett who, following a series of tragic events (in a span of 7 days his mother was 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 for his mother’s surgery, he came down with pneumonia), had been working on writing a novel but now found himself with the desire to write music and set out to recruit a band.
That sudden desire has led to a brilliant debut album after Jollett brought guitarist Steven Chen, drummer Daren Taylor, keyboardist/violinist Anna Bulbrook and bassist Noah Harmon on board. Influenced by the postmodern writer Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise, the band took its name from a section of that book in which the main character is exposed to an enormous chemical explosion—dubbed “the Airborne Toxic Event”—and is forced to confront his fear of death, something Jollett finds thoroughly relateable.
The 10 track self-titled debut album, which has debuted at #7 on Billboard’s Heat Seekers chart, showcases the quintet’s musical abilities and diverse tastes. The record begins with the desperate yet sweet and airy tune “Wishing Well” which picks up with some rough guitar riffs and a pounding bass drum and shows off the smooth quality of Jollett’s vocals that isn’t often heard.
After the first track, punk rock influences invade the album, spiking the energy with raging riffs from Chen and coating Jollett’s deep vocals with a sexy grit. It’s on songs like Papillon that Jollett’s autobiographical turmoil shines through as he sings/screams, “I’d be all right, I guess / If I wasn’t SUCH A MESS!” following a catchy melodica part. Despite the tumultuous nature of Jollett’s lyrics, Bulbrook’s keyboard melodies and Chen’s self-racing riffs provide each song with a cloak of effervescence that is sure to get you up and moving around, especially on “Gasoline” which, if it’s not already, should be earmarked for a single.
The album’s sense of urgency is felt in the driving riffs and beats that lace every track, making just about every cut radio-friendly. Current single “Sometime Around Midnight” (download) begins with Bulbrook playing a lovely string intro, repeated on the following track “Something New,” that betrays a possible classical background. Jollett’s vocals smooth out as on the first track and it hits me on this cut that I can’t think of anyone that The Airborne Toxic Event sounds like.
Watch “Sometime Around Midnight”
From the instant “Missy” begins, you’re hooked thanks to the catchy guitar riff/bass line power combo that immediately gets your head bopping. The album ends with “Innocence” in which a gorgeous violin melody gives way to a fast-paced guitar and drum combination that pulls the song out of its dreamlike state and back into the fast rocking pace that has come to define the album’s sound.
The Airborne Toxic Event is an album rife with beauty found in pain and struggle. It’s power chords and mostly body moving beats will please the younger pop punk set while the mature lyrical content and stunningly beautiful violin melodies will grab older indie lovers. The Airborne Toxic Event is available now on Majordomo Records.
01. Wishing Well
04. Happiness is Overrated
05. Does This Mean You’re Moving On?
06. This Nowhere
07. Sometime Around Midnight (download)
08. Someting New
Aug 16 – Six Flags – KROQ End of Summer Show / Los Angeles, California
Aug 21 – Tempe Marketplace – EDGE 3rd Thu / Tempe, Arizona
Sep 01 – House of Blues / Cleveland, Ohio
Sep 02 – Mr. Smalls Theatre / Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Sep 04 – Theatre of Living Arts / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sep 05 – Roseland Ballroom / New York, New York
Sep 06 – Virgin Festival – Island Park / Toronto, ON
Sep 08 – St. Andrews Hall / Detroit, Michigan
Sep 09 – Newport Music Hall / Columbus, Ohio
Sep 10 – House of Blues / Chicago, Illinois
Sep 11 – First Avenue / Minneapolis, Minnesota
Sep 13 – Endfest – Marymoor Park / Seattle, Washington
Sep 14 – Monolith Festival / Morrison, Colorado
Sep 16 – The Wiltern / Los Angeles, California
Sep 17 – The Warfield / San Francisco, California
Sep 18 – House of Blues / San Diego, California
Sep 24 – Exit In / Nashville, Tennessee
Sep 25 – Parish Room @ HOB / New Orleans, Louisiana
Sep 26 – Warehouse Live / Houston, Texas
Sep 28 – House of Blues / Dallas, Texas
Sep 30 – The Loft at Center Stage / Atlanta, Georgia
Oct 01 – Cats Cradle / Carrboro, North Carolina
Oct 02 – 9:30 Club / Washington, D.C.
Oct 03 – Orpheum Theatre / Boston, Massachusetts
Oct 04 – Webster Theatre / Hartford, Connecticut