By David Browne
Updated May 24, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Jesse & the 8th Street Kidz

type
  • Music

The good news about ”Jesse & the 8th Street Kidz,” relatively speaking, is that it’s marginally easier to listen to Camp than to watch him. From its name producer (Rob Cavallo, who has the Goo Goo Dolls and Green Day on his résumé) to its musicians (cult-hero guitarists Steve Hunter and Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen), the album isn’t a Bruce Willis-style novelty; it begs to be taken seriously. Loud and brawny, the music is a pumped-up salute to the gospel of old-school punk and hard rock. Tracks like ”Break It,” ”I Want You and I Need You,” and the first single, ”See You Around,” are goaded by raw, greasy guitars that foist themselves on you like a boor at a party (you can practically see the smiles on the musicians’ faces for being paid to play this style of music in 1999). The melodies are hooky in a dumbed-down way, like the most annoying songs chanted by crowds at sports events. And like any respectable headbanger album, the disc includes the requisite, I’m-sensitive-too acoustic ballad: ”My Little Saviour,” which finds Stevie Nicks, the witch who should knoweth better, harmonizing along.

If Camp’s lyrics haven’t been mentioned up until now, there’s a reason: His scrawny caterwaul, a tamer version of Rose’s razor-throated delivery, is either slurred or buried (intentionally?) beneath layers of Hungry-Man rock. When Camp’s words ”are” decipherable, it’s clear he sees himself as an antiestablishment street urchin who graduated not from a Connecticut private school but from some mythical hard-knock life. He sings about the glories of being a squatter (”So Down”), cutting class and making out ”in the woods” (”See You Around”), and the heinous hangers-on in the same business that made him a star (”Griftin”’). (Thankfully, he doesn’t take himself with the utmost seriousness: ”I can’t coast on my looks,” he moans in ”So Down.”)

”Jesse & the 8th Street Kidz” is clearly meant to be uplifting and inspirational. Yet the album mainly reinforces the sense that Camp’s T-shirted-wastrel shtick, on TV and on record, is a condescending parody of the same people who count on rock & roll to alleviate the tedium of another drive to the same mall while slogging away at the same day jobs. Coming from an ersatz celebrity, it’s hardly shocking that ”Jesse & the 8th Street Kidz” is ersatz rock — all guns and poses.

Episode Recaps

Jesse & the 8th Street Kidz

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  • Music
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