Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Jawbreaker

Jawbreaker- 24 Hour Revenge Therapy

I bought ‘Bivouac,’ thought it was pretty good despite the (surprise!) over-long running time. The first three songs, though, were enough to ensure that I’d check out their later stuff- ‘Chesterfield King’ remains amazing after all these years.

Anyway, this one July weekend years back I bought ’24 Hour’ at the Taang! Record store in Harvard Square (the one that was upstairs, not the basement version). One listen was all it took to completely hook me. Just ask the guys who were staying in Northbrook Lodge with me that summer- they didn’t hear anything else that summer.

Like a lot of albums I love, pretty much every song on this album spent time as my favorite, starting with ‘The Boat Dreams from the Hill’ moving all the way down to ‘In Sadding Around’ at the very end of the disc. The lyrics, certainly, are at the forefront of the adoration that made hundreds of kids get tattoos at the height of it, but it was the music, too- for me, it was the fact that I could play maybe nine chords but was still able to figure out how to play more than half of the songs on this record with ‘em. Not rudimentary, but accessible, you know? Simple punk hooks steeped in pop. It sounds asinine to say this record is grossly overlooked when you stop to consider the legions of people talking it up, but it’s hype from a very specific sector.

MIX TAPE: What day is it?

Jawbreaker- Live 4/30/96

The Jawbreaker fan base was a peculiar lot- every one of us (yeah, me included) thought that Blake’s lyrics were speaking directly to us, making the band even more dear. We all had ragged, coffee-ringed spiral-bound notebooks in which we scribbled our manic screeds, thrifted t-shirts, big clunky shoes. Anti-depressant prescriptions, fingers stained yellow from smoking too many (what else?) Chesterfields.

Seeing Jawbreaker was a revelation on several different levels. Watching a room full of people all singing along to a record that I had primarily listened to in my room by myself was like joining a punk fraternity- all these people know what I’m feeling! And Blake, up there on stage, cracking jokes, being goofy- what up? The dark priest of suburban punk sorrow actually having a good time, not dying for our sweater-vested sins? A bit of a shock at the time, should’ve taken it as a sign. Ah well- time and age.

Excellent renditions of old favorites (including ‘Parabola,’ one of the band’s best live songs) as well as three up-‘til-recently unreleased ones. ‘For Esme’ is kinda okay, but both ‘Shirt’ and ‘Gemini’ were songs that I remembered at length after hearing them played exactly once, at the band’s last Middle East show, and by ‘remembered at length’ I mean like being able to sing fairly passable versions of choruses five years later. After one listen.

Jawbreaker- Etc.

Terry G. was talking on the back porch about how he’s reading a collection of baseball essays by Stephen Jay Gould (okay, it was in the kitchen BEFORE we went on the back porch, but still.) His report was basically this: a lot of cool shit, but a lot of repetition because Gould wasn’t thinking of eventual anthologies when he was writing. Hence, a lot of stuff gets repeated, and the doubled/tripled/quadrupled facts get a little tedious.

Ditto ‘Etc.’ This is another band who had a bunch of b-sides and singles that were tracked down by enthusiasts with a near-religious fervor before the inevitable anthology CD. You have to understand this: there was probably a guy at every show the band played for a good four of five years who was totally shitfaced watching his recent ex-girlfriend standing right up by the stage, making eyes at Blake as he sang ‘Kiss The Bottle,’ a song about losing your lady to the sauce. Every show for four or five years, that’s how good some of this shit was. The stuff that drags drags, but it’s only a few pushes of the button to get to ‘Housesitter’ or ‘Sea Foam Green’ again.

MIX TAPE: Kiss the Bottle

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