Stuck in Traffic with Matt Jaffe & The Distractions

Stuck is Traffic is a column in which I begrudgingly review, during my car ride to work, some of the unsolicited CDs SF Weekly receives from PR hacks.

Album: Matt Jaffe & The Distractions’ Blast Off

Date: Friday, May 22, 2015

The morning's usual fog has reached a tipping point, becoming the kind of light mist that secretly gets your clothes wet on your walk to the car.

*key in the ignition*

Matt Jaffe & The Distractions’ Blast Off sounds like the kind of record a friend's alt-looking sister would put on and passionately sing along to during a long car ride. You'd urge her to stop, but for some reason the nasally, nails-on-a-chalkboard delivery of lines like, “Put your finger in the socket / Put me in your pocket today” ring too true for her to contain herself. She loves it — no, she needs it.

[jump] Today, I’m all alone in the car, driving in to work, and my friend's alt sister isn't here (that'd be kinda weird if she was, right?), so I'm listening to Blast Off without her accompaniment. And from here (stuck in traffic on northbound I-280), the EP sounds like someone who just sucked down a balloon full of helium playing a mix of rockabilly, power pop, and ’70s new wave-influenced songs. 

The glossy cover of Blast Off reminds me of Tom Petty’s Damn The Torpedoes album artwork. Which is interesting because apparently Tom Petty’s drummer Steve Ferrone played on some of Jaffe’s early demo tracks. Which brings me to another point: The music on this CD isn’t poorly performed, just boring. And maybe I'd be able to get over the vocal delivery if I wasn't stuck behind a Fed-Ex truck right now, but I am, so I can't. 

The whole Matt Jaffe product, including a string of unanswered emails asking me if I want a CD that sounds like Elvis Costello before I'm sent one anyways (quickly followed by another email asking if I received the unsolicited CD and if I’d like yet another copy in case the first one never showed up), has a distinctly over-polished, forced-down-your throat feel to it that seems like the work of some bizarre part of the music industry Napster forgot to kill.

According to the PR information I receive about Jaffe on a consistent basis, he’s a Bay Area singer and Yale student “discovered” at a young age by Talking Heads’ Jerry Harrison. Harrison has been helping him hone his craft and hooking him up with studio time, labels, annoying PR people, etc.

The Bay Bridged called him “pure greatness,” Entertainment Weekly said Blast Off “pays homage to Jaffe’s Bay Area forebears Green Day and Rancid,” and Paper said Jaffe is “the Elvis Costello / Tyler Oakley lovechild we've been waiting for.”

They're all wrong (especially the one about Rancid), but you can listen to some of Jaffe's stuff below and make up your own mind. I have to go to work.

*engine off*

UPDATE 6/09/15: I have received another Matt Jaffe & The Distractions CD in the mail.

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