Listening to…

The Black Rabbits, Hypno Switch (Rock Ridge Music. www.theblackrabbits.com)

It’s not news that I’m a big fan of the first three Jonas Brothers albums, when they were screaming youngsters and hadn’t yet “matured” into ‘70s California and faux-funk territory. So I hope I’m not embarrassing the Black Rabbits when I say that this Asheville, N.C.  quartet (fronted, interestingly, by brothers: Jetson and Skyler Black) sound wonderfully Jonasesque in their mix of clean, clear, studied vocals (lots of warbly oohs and ahs) and frolicsome playing (bash, bash, bash). The Black Rabbits create songs that build from simple beats and statements into grand emotional outbursts. They stay friendly and sloppy, which is something the Jonas Brothers were never allowed to accomplish. Such informality is an especially tough trick with songs like “Hurry, Hurry,” which resemble something the Turtles might have done in the 1960s. It helps when the producers are Tom Petty’s old drummer Stan Lynch and Backstreet Boys guitarist Billy Chapin.

Hypno Switch’s title song has adorable nyah-nyah backing vocals and an opening “Hey!” that’s screamed at exactly the right moment. The penultimate track, “For Way Too Long Way,” slows down the pace, for half a song anyhow, even adding “doo doo doo”s, and the album closer “So Long, Sophia” gets positively ballady, approaching a modern INXS “Never Tear Us Apart.” Hey, the Jonas boys had their slow songs too.

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