Review: Alien or Martian? by Jason Paul & the Know It Alls
By Adam Smith
It felt like the winter between 2020 and 2021 was never going to pass, and I'm sure many other Americans felt similar given the pandemic and inadequacy of our elected officials. Fortunately, daylight savings came and we're getting warmer weather, even if it comes with dry wind sand blasting Albuquerque with dust from the mesa. This setting just happened to put me in a very suitable headspace to really listen and vibe out to Alien or Martian by Jason Paul & The Know It Alls.
Jason Paul Klandrud grew up in the Minneapolis punk scene in the 2000's until moving to San Pedro, CA in 2012. Here, he started a couple of bands but couldn't seem to get enough traction, so he ultimately became a solo artist and recorded music reminiscent of Bob Dylan or a 21st century Woodie Guthrie. These roots still show in his newest release, but Jason and his band threw in more elements of rock'n'roll in multiple subgenres that give a nice flow and dynamic to the record.
Immediately from the opening track "Tongues In Knots,” the band sets the precedent for the album. The only time they seem to let up is to bring a guitar riff into the spotlight, only to thrust you back into the soundtrack to bombing a hill on a skateboard in the hot summer sun. This mood is carried on through the next two tracks, the lively and urgent percussion contrasting the relaxed yet present guitar chord progressions.
The album hits its first road stop on "Giving Up Our Names,” a sparse Americana song that brings the tempo down and delivers more emotional and sentimental meaning through the combination of the piano, strings, and Jason's voice. The album doesn't let you settle here though, using "We Took The Risk" to throw you back on the road to search for the next adventure. It then propels into "We Took The Risk" and "Go For Broke,” the latter being a steadfast anthem in giving your all even when you may not have much to give.
"All In All" and "As The Day Goes By" seem to be the climax of the album where the band gets more comfortable with switching up the dynamics more frequently, letting vocals and guitars ring out while drums drop out and come back in, and inevitably finishing just as strong as they did before they fall into the last song of the album.
"Trust" brings similar energy as "Giving Up Our Names,” but provides a fitting sense of closure: the feeling of dropping off all your friends after a long night of driving aimlessly to the next spot to hang, the next gas station to pick up cigarettes, and the next party that hasn't died out. The song initially gives more emotion not quite reached from the previous tracks. "Taking leaps of faith, cause there ain't no other way. Just a piece of the puzzle in a game they create. Do you trust me?" Jason utters before the buildup and guitar solo that picks up the pace while expanding the same tenderhearted disposition. Once again asking "Do you trust me, like I do you?" before fizzling out and concluding the album.
This record surprised me by maintaining the familiar rock'n'roll style, yet not being too cliché or frankly boring as a lot of other bands doing similar genres can be. Alien or Martian? really gives you enough nostalgic emotions while also keeping the hope and anticipation for the future very prevalent, a difficult balance to achieve in a world where art seems to either get weirder or stay the exact same. I look forward to night drives with the windows down, feeling the wind through my fingers while this record is blasting through the car speakers.