If you trim a two-year evolutionary period from its timeline, 2015 represents Jukebox the Ghost’s 10th year of operation, and such milestones are always prime opportunities for reflection. Even a cursory spin of the D.C. trio’s eponymous fourth album will lead to the inevitable conclusion that keyboardist/vocalist Ben Thornewill, guitarist/vocalist Tommy Siegel and drummer Jesse Kristin wanted to make a bold statement at this career juncture.
While the band retains the edgy, sweet/tart Power Pop energy that defined its first three albums, Jukebox the Ghost (their grammatically surreal name was inspired by a Captain Beefheart lyric and a passage from a Nabokov book) has laced its latest album with a contemporary Dance Rock vibe that suggests a dual bill with Walk the Moon would be completely appropriate and pretty bloody epic.
JTG began a dozen years ago when Thornewill, Siegel and Kristin were students at George Washington University and started a band they dubbed The Sunday Mail. After a brief hiatus to woodshed new material, the trio emerged in 2005 with a new name and a fresh sonic profile. The band’s structure led to Ben Folds Five comparisons (they opened for Folds in 2009), but markers like The Beatles, Jellyfish and Sparks were equally valid, although the members only claim the Fab Four as actual influences.
JTG’s first two albums, 2008’s Live and Let Ghosts and 2010’s Everything Under the Sun, were potent doses of hypercaffeinated Pop that sweetened the band’s dark and somewhat downcast lyrical message. The next album, 2012’s Safe Travels, represented a slight departure in direction, with broader instrumentation and more personal lyrics. Last fall’s Jukebox the Ghost (the cover art spotlights the ghost logo that they sketched in the immediate aftermath of their name change a decade ago) completes the trio’s transformation into a pure-Pop-for-wow-people juggernaut.
The band has been spicing its recent set lists with a mind-boggling array of covers, including Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” That ridiculously broad spectrum shows that Jukebox the Ghost hasn’t lost one iota of its brash and razor sharp musical attitude.
JUKEBOX THE GHOST plays at Taft Theatre Wednesday, Jan. 11. Find tickets/more info here .