Record Review - 1 August 07 2003

Your pain is not special, sings Jealous Sound frontman Blair Shehan over the propulsive bounce of wiry guitars on "Naive," the second track from the band's full-length debut, Kill Them With Kindness. He could well be addressing the whiney rockers whose wounded, melodic post-punk musings have been grouped under the catch-all category "emo." Or, he may be singing to a younger version of himself: Shehan once fronted Knapsack, a band whose aggrieved, guitar-rock drama easily fits the aforementioned category.

Either way, he's grown out of it. The Jealous Sound isn't a radical departure from Knapsack, but on Kill Them With Kindness, Shehan breaks with the insular earnestness characteristic of emo's songwriting. In "The Gift Horse," he derisively addresses "Dear Misunderstood," his voice dripping with sarcasm as he asks, "Should we all fall to our knees, for you?" In a departure from the dogmatic guitar-bass-drums formula, lush synthesizer lines open "The Fold Out," evoking mid-'80s Depeche Mode, and "For Once In Your Life" layers swirling keyboards, chugging guitars and atmospheric percussion into the sort of breathless, thundering set-closer worthy of arena rock at its best.

From the album's opening declaration, "There is hope for us," to "Recovery Room," where Shehan admits there is none ("Leave it to me to live out a lie"), there's undoubtedly a dramatic emotional arc here; in the end, Shehan knows his own pain isn't so special either.

The Jealous Sound plays the Echo Lounge Sun., Aug. 10. $8.