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Get Born Again: Jet Celebrate Their Debut Album’s 20th Anniversary

Two decades have been and gone since Jet debuted ‘Get Born’, but the album’s allure and legacy lives on.


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It was 20 years ago that Jet taught the kids to play rock guitar all over again.

Well, along with The Strokes, The Datsuns, The Libertines, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Hit Hot Heat and Australian counterparts The Vines, the early 2000s was the era of a new rock revolution and Jet – a four-piece band from Melbourne with their sweetly savage guitar tones and a rock’n’roll attitude that seemed timeless – were certainly a band for the times.

The band’s debut album, Get Born, released in September 2003, won the band six ARIA Awards. Powered by the worldwide  hit single “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”, it was certified nine-times platinum in Australia, sitting in the Top 5 highest-selling Australian rock albums of all time, and has since reached total worldwide sales of over five million albums.

Brothers Nic (vocals/rhythm guitar/piano) and Chris Cester (drums/vocals) had grown up listening to their father’s record collection, by all accounts a library of classic rock greatness (Beatles, Rolling Stones, Easybeats, AC/DC, etc), elements of which would seep into tunes the band would later write.

Even so, it was the uniquely Australian torchbearers You Am I and their second album, 1995’s Hi-Fi Way, that lit a fuse for these youngsters. Still pretty green in 2001, the nascent band could not get a gig anywhere in Melbourne, so they focussed their efforts on rehearsing and writing, up to four nights a week. The band at this stage also featured Nic’s old school friend Cameron Muncey on lead guitar, and bass player Doug Armstrong (who was replaced by Mark Wilson a year later).

The hard work paid off and the newly christened Jet began to play around Melbourne.

“We’d been writing songs for a long time, and we finally had a good, solid body of material,” Nic Cester told Songwriting Magazine (UK) in 2018. Indeed, he had already written “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” and “Look What You’ve Done” by the time he was 19.

“All of a sudden, we’re 18 or 19 years old and playing shows in the city of Melbourne had become a real possibility. And right at that time, the whole rock’n’roll revival thing happened, so we were poised. We had this huge arsenal of material and we’d gotten pretty good behind closed doors, while no-one was watching. It all just happened very quickly.”

With their first manager Dave Powell behind them, Jet recorded and released a vinyl EP, Dirty Sweet, in 2002. Upon its limited release, word quickly got around, helped along mightily by the NME attaining a copy and giving a glowing endorsement of the single, “Take It Or Leave It”. The other three tracks weren’t bad either, by the way – “Cold Hard Bitch”, “Rollover DJ” and “Move On” – all to become key tracks on their debut album, which was just around the corner.

Not, however, before a good old-fashioned record company bidding war, ultimately won by Elektra Records, and by early 2003 Jet were off to Los Angeles to record at Sunset Studios (The Doors, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys, Van Halen and many more) with acclaimed Brooklyn producer/mixer/composer Dave Sardy (Slayer, The Dandy Warhols, Marilyn Manson, Johnny Cash, Hot Hot Heat).

“We were still really young then, we were excited and pretty naïve, I guess,” Nic Cester recalled in 2018. “But we were cocky and very much a gang. We had a good relationship with Dave Sardy… but it was us against him, us against the label, us against the managers. Maybe we didn’t need to be so aggressive with our opinions, but it was a bit of a defence mechanism at the time, because we were pretty overwhelmed with the situation that we’d found ourselves in.

“It was very real, what we were experiencing and how we were feeling, and when you’re in a gang, it’s transmitting that energy and so much contagion, and I think Dave Sardy caught our bug as well. All the people who worked with us ended up catching that same bug and I guess eventually even the fans did, so that’s how it spread.

“It’s fair to say Dave did an amazing job on that album; he knew exactly how to capture it.”

While not critically acclaimed, Get Born was a rock’n’rollercoaster that captured a new wave of garage rock fans around the world. While much of the album centres on tough luck, boy-meets-girl/boy-leaves-girl themes (“Cold Hard Bitch”, “Get Me Outta Here”), there’s an excellent line of balladry that offsets the bad-boy attitude (“Rollover DJ”) nicely with “Look What You’ve Done” and album closer “Timothy” (penned by Chris Cester about Cameron Muncey’s late older brother) evoking a tender touch evocative of Oasis’ still-recent heartstring-tugging moments and a wider reward for the Lennon/McCartney songbook.

“Are You Gonna Be My Girl” being such an irrepressible hit was bound to receive some brickbats, especially given its similarity to Iggy Pop’s 1977 single, “Lust For Life”, but the band maintained that its influence lay with Motown (think The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love”), which indeed is where Iggy Pop had found his. If anything, the band played the controversy up, “Lust For Life” eventually being played over the PA as they exited the stage as their album tour wore on.

Indeed, Jet and Iggy would later collaborate on a version of “The Wild One” for a Johnny O’Keefe tribute, as Chris Cester recalled to Uptown Magazine in 2009.

“It’s funny because I asked him point blank about that. He said I was crazy. He said that when he and David Bowie were writing “Lust For Life”, they were ripping off Motown’s beat. It’s funny that he said that to me because we also thought we were ripping off Motown more than “Lust For Life”.”

The hype was both palpable and unavoidable. In a late 2003 interview on triple j with Nic Cester, Richard Kingsmill seemed doubtful the band could live up to all the hoopla, but the station itself would succumb to Jet’s allure with all of Get Born’s singles gaining high rotation over the summer.

Jet had bottled lightning on Get Born and what didn’t appeal to critics (“Slavish imitation always works best when everyone is too busy rocking out to care”, said US Rolling Stone) more than appealed to the band’s growing worldwide audience as they topped both the US Modern Rock and Mainstream Rock charts and toured with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Oasis and Kings Of Leon, when they weren’t headlining themselves.

“Things took off so quickly and it was so ferocious,” Nic told Songwriting UK. “We were on tour constantly; we didn’t stop. We were still all based in Australia then, but we were touring Europe and America, and you can’t just quickly pop back home.

“Looking back now, we’ve all spoken, and we absolutely over-did the touring thing… I mean, we over-did everything. Even our managers, if was their first time too, so we were all making mistakes and all wanting to do as much as possible, but we were probably all guilty of trying to do too much. We should’ve just stepped back.”

When a rock band’s on a roll, however, that is simply not possible. Jet released two more albums – 2006’s Shine On and 2009’s Shaka Rock – before disbanding in 2012. They didn’t again achieve the heady heights of the Get Born era, but toured internationally with all guns blazing right ‘til the end.

These 20 years on it’s worthy of a celebration and that’s just what the band are doing. Well played, Jet. Time to Get Born once again.




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