- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Silver Spring’s Eric Tischler, who led the Hurricane Lamps to a glowing reputation as a solid, pop-driven rock band in the decade’s first years — only to see the group’s lights go out in 2004 — returns as the singer/guitarist/synth-playing frontman of the locally based Jet Age, playing Tuesday at the Black Cat.

The trio spent the winter recording 10 songs, and at the hometown concert will give away a free, four-song teaser of new material from its upcoming debut album, whose first song serves as a “declaration of intent” that Jet Age will explore new musical frontiers rather than mirror the Hurricane Lamps’ style. “Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose” erupts with three rambunctious, mold-smashing guitar solos.

“We’re letting loose in a way the Lamps typically didn’t,” Mr. Tischler says.

Mr. Tischler, who grew up in the District and Bethesda, lives in Silver Spring. Bethesda native Greg Bennett (bass), also a member of the Lamps, resides in Vienna, and new drummer-percussionist Pete Nuwayser lives in Alexandria.

The upcoming album, tentatively called “Breathless,” showcases the band’s adoration for tight and sharp rockers (“Ride On”) and sly bass grooves (“Dry”). “I Gave Up on Justice and Reason” is a Who-like stomper, and “Slope” concludes with an explosion of fiery guitar and wicked blasts from Mr. Nuwayser’s snare drum.

Mr. Tischler calls the eight-minute “Big Deaths, Little Deaths” one of his favorites because it reinforces his bandmates’ commitment to their craft and comfort level as a trio.

“I’m excited to do it [on stage] because when we get up there, we feed off each other and we trust each other,” he says.

Mr. Tischler recorded the Hurricane Lamps and Jet Age songs in his home studio, which over the years has expanded from an eight-track to a 24-track system. The new material didn’t require much tinkering.

“The band is so strong,” he says, “that I find myself keeping production to a minimum.”

Mr. Tischler wants to build a large following for the Jet Age. But he won’t participate in what he calls “the loudness wars,” an attempt by producers to emphasize volume instead of the full dynamic range of vocals and instrumentation.

The implications extend beyond radio airplay: Music heard digitally in MP3 format loses much of the nuance found on CDs, especially if the production is tweaked in favor of sheer volume. People who rely solely on MP3s “miss out on just how great it can be” to experience music on a pulsing stereo system, Mr. Tischler says. “Listening to MP3s is a horrible way to listen to music.”

But he knows that posting digital files on popular music Web sites is an essential component to marketing a band in the 21st century. MySpace.com is the largest of these sites, with more than 68 million members, according to parent company Fox Interactive Media. The Jet Age maintains a minor presence on the site, but Mr. Tischler isn’t a fan. “I don’t go to MySpace,” he says. “I just don’t get it.” The site is more about status than high-quality music, he adds. “I don’t understand the online community. Not to denigrate it — I just don’t understand it.”

So the Jet Age will promote itself the old-fashioned way: Plenty of touring and word of mouth from fans who enjoy the band’s live set. Mr. Tischler is considering a U.S. or European tour in the fall, timed to coincide with the album’s release on the band’s own label, Sonic Boomerang Records. And if everything works out, he’ll be reunited with the Lamps supporters who’ve missed Mr. Tischler’s melody-driven tunes.

• • •

The Walkmen, in town tonight at the 9:30 Club, typically record at their beloved Marcata Studio in New York City. But when the sessions for the group’s heavily anticipated third disc weren’t jelling, the Walkmen headed south to Arlington’s Inner Ear, a studio revered by punk fans for playing host to Washington heroes such as Fugazi and Nation of Ulysses.

The Walkmen were very familiar with the studio and its renowned engineer Don Zientera: During his high school days, Mr. Leithauser was an intern at the studio.

All five of the multi-instrumentalist band members — Matt Barrick, Peter Bauer, Hamilton Leithauser, Paul Maroon and Walter Martin — grew up in the District, and all but Mr. Bauer graduated from the St. Albans School in the early and mid-‘90s.

With Mr. Zientera’s guidance, the band produced “A Hundred Miles Off,” released two days ago. The 12 uncompromising tracks, which swing from lush and loose (“Louisiana”) to relentless and bruising (“Tenley Town”), are all highlighted by Mr. Leithauser’s bluesy, nearly Dylan-esque howl that belies a prep-school pedigree.

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