A Jones for The Jonas Brothers
At Mohegan Sun Arena for three shows: Oct. 9 at 9 p.m. and Oct. 10 at 3 & 7:30 p.m. $82 & $92. Mohegan Sun, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville; 888-777-7922, mohegansun.com.
The history of pop music is a history of unexceptional artists being lauded as heroic saviors of their chosen genre while other perfectly decent acts are denied any validity whatsoever because they’re perceived as too popular, too pretty, too prefabricated. It’s a battle that goes back at least as far as the birth of jazz, which occasioned impassioned essays on that uproarious art form from such stellar critics as Carl Van Vechten and Gilbert Seldes. For all his snark, Lester Bangs has a soft spot for bubblegum rock. I fondly remember the underground cartoonist Peter Bagge’s eloquent essay-length defense of The Spice Girls and the rest of the ’90s sex-and-harmony sorority. I myself have sincerely argued for a greater appreciation of The Archies, The Wiggles and Paul Revere & the Raiders.
So here goes: The Jonas Brothers don’t deserve your scorn. Their awesomely oppressive tween fan base (which wouldn’t care what or how they played onstage if Joe would only wink in their general direction) may lay claim to them at their three sold-out Mohegan Sun shows this week, and turn their live set into a compromised carnival of special effects and airborne acrobatics. But you suspect that if the Jonas Brothers were unknowns in a high-school showcase night at The Space in Hamden, they’d not only fit right in but win the battle of the bands. In its way, their breakthrough hit “Year 3000,” with its consciously incomprehensible lyrics and loony interpolations of “American Idol” vocal clichés, fits more squarely with cartoony West Coast punk bands of the ’70s like The Rezillos than it does with anything coming out of the Miley Cyrus factory.
They started very young, but the Jonas Brothers are now at the same age many rock bands — the kind critics and college radio DJs like — are when they start being taken seriously. It’s cruel to make their pre-adolescent fame such an obstacle for a band that, unlike true pop jokes like The Backstreet Boys or New Kids on the Block, can write genuinely catchy songs and play their own instruments, louder and faster than I suspect their screeching fans really want to hear. Wikipedia unfairly defines them as “an American pop boy band,” likening them to all those mindless vocal harmony acts of the ’80s). But when the Jonas Brothers loosen their white World War II era tuxedoes and rock out, it’s comparable to any band that ever ruled MTV. Yet they’re relegated to the Radio Disney airwaves while, say, Fountains of Wayne (whose own career breakthrough, you could argue, was with a cover of a Britney Spears song) gets taken seriously.
The Jonas Brothers are proudly hoisting a banner of a cultish pop subgenre — Power Pop — that they’ve embroidered using material as resilient and glimmering as that stitched by their Mersey Beat, New Wave and Indie Rock forebears — bands that somehow were allowed to accrue a much higher Cool quotient. You could slip most Jonas Brothers songs onto a mixtape alongside venerated tracks from The Raspberries, Big Star or anything from the revered Yellow Pills power pop anthologies and they wouldn’t feel out of place.
And look at all the ancillary good they’ve done for pop culture. Acquired-taste Brit rock comic Russell Brand’s stateswide celebrity ignited overnight; as host of the MTV Video Music Awards, he teased the Jonases for their avowed celibacy. Rolling Stone magazine stuck young Nick in a room with his idol Elvis Costello (yes!) and gathered a no-nonsense, cross-generation rumination on the songwriting process. The Disney Channel ditched their overdone hidden-talent teenage girl sitcom formula for once and, expressly for the Jonas Brothers, took more of a Monkees route (exec-produced and largely written by 48-year-old Yale School of Drama grad Ivan Menchell, a far cry from his hit senior-citizen melodrama The Cemetery Club). They’ve also singlehandedly (triplehandedly?) saved the Tiger Beat locker-poster industry.
I realize that little I say can convince you. Do we have to wait a decade or more until, like Taylor Hanson did via Tinted Windows, for the Jonases to get accepted into some kind of hip pop supergroup so the masses can finally accept their value beyond their pretty faces?
I leave you with this: Even Kevin, Joe and Nick’s most fervent detractors have to admit that, with several albums under their belts, the worst or sappiest tracks the Jonas Brothers have yet unleashed don’t begin to sink to the depths of cloying commercial desperation and clichéd metal-balladry that the most revered act in the Power Pop firmament, Cheap Trick, did at the same point in their long career. Yeah, I said it; Jonas Brothers’ worst is better than a bunch of Cheap Trick. Start reconsidering the Jonas Brothers now. Don’t wait for the year 3000, or a little bit longer.
Source: New Haven Advoate