If not a familiar name, Nic Cester is definitely a familiar voice to anyone who listened to music in the past 14 years. The frontman of iconic Aussie rock band Jet, who found international fame with infectious rock ‘n’ roll tracks like ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?‘ and ‘Look What You’ve Done‘ has today released his debut solo album – and it’s not what you expect.
Sugar Rush is 12 tracks of intelligent songwriting, catchy hooks and Cester’s powerful voice – that’s nothing new. But on first listen, the album sounds like it was written by a completely different man. Gone are the thrashing cymbals, roaring guitars and cheeky lyrics that catapulted Jet to fame with their debut album Get Born in 2003. Instead, Cester has delved into a deeply soulful world of warm, bluesy psych rock. It’s a perfect fit for the formidable musician.
Our first hint at Cester’s foray into chilled-out territory came in the form of lead single ‘Psichobello‘, a sultry piece of Italian infused mellow rock with an adventurous flute battle in the middle. Following this came ‘Eyes On The Horizon‘, a dreamy, summery track about lengthening days and romance. These tracks showcased the rich tones in Cester’s voice, as he croons, whispers and howls joyously over honey-sweet bass lines amongst sprinklings of surprising organs and flutes. Luckily, as listening to Sugar Rush reveals, Cester’s musical exploration doesn’t end there.
Fifth track ‘Strange Dreams’ creates a surprising hip-hop vibe with a heavy but minimal beat, gospel backing vocals and the most delicious distortion on Cester’s domineering voice, but the real hook comes with the rumbling synth in the chorus. It’s a simple formula but it’s executed so perfectly that the two-and-a-half minute run time doesn’t seem like nearly enough.
‘God Knows’ is hidden in the later half of the album, but the 6/8 power-rocker instantly makes its mark as a sexy whining guitar leads Cester’s pleading vocals to a climatic chorus, overflowing with cinematic brass, bluesy organs, soaring strings and heightened heartache. It’s with this full band, The Milano Elettrica, that Cester’s impressive voice really reaches its ultimate peak.
Closing track ‘Walk On’ is a lackadaisical groover with crisp acoustic guitar and quirky modulations, but it brings the impressive collection to an almighty close with its sudden shift into a massive string driven chorus that never repeats, leaving us always wanting more.
Sugar Rush bears very little resemblance to any of Jet’s albums, but that’s only a good thing for Cester, who has proven he’s not just a rock star, he’s a forever new musical legend.
Words by Hayley Franklin.