Artist: Jefferson Death Star

"Stay on target!" Digtal EP

self released


(there's no cover to this EP so here's a picture of me wearing my Jefferson Death Star tshirt)

For some people outside of the punk scene the idea of "folk punk" must seem like an inherent contradiction.
But some breeds of punk do share an sincere, introspective nature with folk and some stripes of folk do feature a righteous indignation that is a hallmark of punk (and both have a weird undercurrent of puritanism), as such the advent of folk punk is less mutant mishap and more an inevitability.

For those inside the punk scene folk punk has been around so long it hardly deserves noting it as a an abnormality.

Jefferson Death Star is really one folk: Ryan from Seattle's well regarded The Damage Done. As JDS he wields no more than a basic (and battered) acoustic guitar, a heart on his sleeve and a voice that fills a room all on its own. Heavy-set and bearded his visage is both cherubic and a touch intimidating, like a new cat you're not sure is willing to let you pet it. Which is fitting as his vocalizations start at a punk bellow and work up to a howl that's half roar/half caterwaul, like a wounded lion. Encountering his voice stunning to experience live and moving when heard via recorded media.

And "moving" is a very apropos word. Movement pops up frequently in the lyrics to the five songs on Jefferson Death Star's debut EP: "Stay on target!".

Ryan as narrator is constantly in motion: he journeys by car, his head spins around, he retraces his steps, rides buses, contemplates time travel, puts miles on his guitar and says I should go with him (if I'd prefer to live). Add in the name of the EP: Stay on Target and the end result is one complex, beautiful, extended, pop-culture-camouflaged metaphor for growth, for facing up to change.

See Ryan isn't a young man, he's a grown-up, and he's crafted a set of songs on what it means to be both PUNK and an ADULT.

Gleeful nihilism gives way to concern for what lies ahead of him AND WHAT HE LEAVES BEHIND. Yet he wrestles with who he is. He still smokes too much, still battles with cynicism and hope, still thinks he has answers but is aware enough to realize that those answers may not be right. He knows that he's constantly in motion and that's what makes staying on target HARD.
It's not that the target that's in motion, HE IS.

But all of this is fueled with a sense of humor and self-aware pop-culture references that make this a fun adventure, not a self indulgent trial.

Take the name Jefferson Death Star. It's a clever reference to Star Wars and rock music. But what kind of rock music? The psychedelic hope/innocence of Jefferson Airplane or the crappy cocaine pop of Jefferson Starship? Is this an attempt to take something back or kick it all to the side?

It's hard to pick a favorite song here but I'm most drawn to "Good robot usses". Here Ryan takes a reference to a middling sequel (Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey) and turns it into an meditation on facing up to how we let ourselves down and how would we stack up to scrutiny by our future selves.

"Claymation christmas special" evokes images of fond childhood memories only to set up classic punk (and folk!) targets: TV, pointlessly big cars, corporate influence.

"Shame Quest" is a road song that finds the narrator wondering what the hell civilized man has done to the landscape AND what the hell modern commodities can do to the human body.

"Come with me if you want to live" starts with a sharp critique of punk song structure and moves on to musing on the foundation of Ryan's family and discovering a happiness that he's forced to SCREAM. Scream.

"Tusken Hater" was a Damage Done song that gets a second life via Jefferson Death Star. It's a classic swipe of punk as HOPE and personal empowerment.

Covering similar ground "GRNSTRP HAUS!!!", is a love song to a lost Seattle venue and a anthem to proud independence *married* to the comradery of punk experience. It also contains the amazing lines of "We pound the pavement into gravel then to sand, we pound the pavement into gravel then to sand... THEN TO DUST!". It's a history lesson that encourages the listener to MAKE history. (Yet Ryan remains aware that this is just music, admonishing the his fellow revelers not "hurt yourself for punk rock".)

All of this is delivered with a straight-to-the-point, personal-as-political, almost-confessional delivery that has punk roots back to AT LEAST the Minutemen, but by working in his blatant geekery/doofusism Ryan pumps his own spirit into this delivery.

Acoustic guitar aside Ryan infuses his work with an urgency and energy that takes folk introspection and explodes it out with a punk fire.

Jake Fischer and the Modal Nodes add the occasional extra instrument to help temper and accent Ryan's throat and guitar. The additional instruments are used to good effect I'd say, in that when they're there the work well but when they're not you don't feel short changed.

But perhaps I'm over thinking all of this. The first time I saw Jefferson Death Star I was viscerally grabbed by Ryan's performance, and I still feel that way when I listen to to this EP.

It could be because I'm an old punk myself but I can't help but feel that if I had heard Jefferson Death Star when I was a young man I'd be a different man now.


Jefferson Death Star~!/pages/Jefferson-Death-Star/192097190821805