No matter what you might think of the Airborne Toxic Event’s Modest Mouse-y new single “Changing” – and for FM radio fare, it’s all right – it’s impossible not to squirm in your seat during Jon Danovic’s slickly produced video for the song. The Los Angeles quintet sprinted out of Silver Lake in 2008 on the strength of their supercharged live shows, hyper-romantic anthems and the rock radio hit, “Sometime Around Midnight.” Along the way, they wore their local-band-made-good badge admirably, name-checking (and touring with) other acts from the scene that sprouted them.
When Airborne played Disney Hall in December 2009, they took great pains to involve the community in the concert, and then even greater pains to chronicle their efforts in the documentary DVD “All I Ever Wanted: Live From Walt Disney Concert Hall.” The “little band from Los Feliz” (their words) had become obviously not so little, in case you missed the record-sales figures and the sold-out tours. But it seems nobody was more amazed by the success of the Airborne Toxic Event than the Airborne Toxic Event. After all, the 78th time somebody goes out of the way to tell you how humble they are, you realize they’re not humble at all.
Danovic’s video, which is apparently un-ironic, should relinquish any indie cred the band has left – not that indie cred is going to (or should) affect how much anybody likes TATE’s sophomore album, “All At Once” (due April 25). But the clip’s subtext makes me wish I’d only heard the song: We’re cool – we ride motorcycles, drive vintage cars and weather leather jackets and sleeveless shirts. We’re cool – black people dance to our music. We’re cool – we can take over a dive bar and turn it into a dance party. We’re cool – our music can change the lives of beautiful girls and barroom brawlers alike.
Oh, where does it end? With frontman Mikel Jollett channeling the Boss? With step-dancers? Step-dancers?
Maybe “Changing” is simply a matter of Airborne finally asserting themselves as what they really are – major-label radio stars. If so, we can never hear “little band from Los Feliz” again and move on, making judgments on the strength of the songs and not any spoken or implied mythology. If not, then somebody has some serious ’splainin’ to do.
||| Live: The Airborne Toxic Event plays sold-out shows April 25 at the Satellite, April 26 at the Troubadour, April 27 at the El Rey Theatre and April 28 at the Music Box.