Amid the heavenly host of St. Louis music-scene lifers, Jason Hutto is a guardian angel in dark shades and a jacket. He's served as producer, sideman and guitar tech for some of this town's best-loved acts, and his grainy, greasy thumbprint leaves a lovingly lo-fi smudge on all he touches. Hutto has been back in front of the mic with Warm Jets USA, a rangy power trio that owes little debt to the Brian Eno reference in the band's name (though experimental wiz Eric Hall adds some artful static behind a few tracks here). The self-titled debut LP is as low-key and approachable as Hutto himself; Warm Jets USA isn't looking to bowl you over with flash or force of personality. Instead, loud guitars and well-worn hooks do the trick.
Early on the disc, the band moves from thick, Dinosaur Jr.-y slurry (as on "Bleeding") to more wistful yearnings of early Neil Young ("Down on the Record"). It's clearly a rock-guitar master class, though that sometimes comes at the cost of low-in-the-mix vocals. Hutto's voice is more a parallel instrument to his six-string than a centerpiece, but here his lyrical bons mots get swallowed from time to time, which is a shame. The 100-second blast of "Another Sound" sneaks in a few good kiss-offs ("Fuck your heart and screw your past," for one) amid a Superchunk-worthy shred session. The rhythm section keeps the band firmly rooted in dude-rock glory; bassist Chris Keith dials in some atom-smashing low-end on "Breaking All the Rules" and Evan Bequette keeps anchor-heavy time. But Hutto keeps the biggest surprise for last, an acoustic digestif called "Up in the Air" that closes the disc with a different kind of heaviness. The light guitar strums get mixed with a sticky ambience that makes the song both dreamy and disorienting. It's a fitting come-down after 30 minutes of pulse-quickening rock action.–Christian Schaeffer