Unsung Classics, Part 1
Hello and welcome to ‘Unsung Classics’, a new feature that will hopefully give a look at some astoundingly excellent albums from bands which, in spite of their influential status, are […]
Hello and welcome to ‘Unsung Classics’, a new feature that will hopefully give a look at some astoundingly excellent albums from bands which, in spite of their influential status, are almost always far less renowned than the legions of imitators they spawned.
Anyway, moving swiftly on from my DIY punk agenda, this week’s album is:
Dear You by Jawbreaker, 1995, DGC Records
This album by the legendary San Francisco punk trio Jawbreaker has now been cited as a landmark record by more young punks than you could shake a Mohawk at – in 2003, a compilation album was released which was entirely composed of contemporary bands covering Jawbreaker songs. In spite of Dear You’s critical acclaim, the fanbase at the time acted as though they had been utterly betrayed – here was a band that had espoused the virtues of independent labels, yet to outside appearances had entirely reversed that decision and signed to a major.
But of course, all this controversy wouldn’t mean much if the album wasn’t a stone-cold killer, and thankfully it is. The record sounds fantastic; the rhythm section of Adam Pfhaler on drums and Chris Bauermeister on bass is absolutely watertight, and Schwarzenbach’s dense, layered guitars have that thick punk crunch which has been frequently imitated but never bettered. The song quality is very high, meaning that the album gels as a cohesive whole, and yet it is easy to pick favourites – an early highlight is ‘Accident Prone’. It begins at a slow, brooding pace, and stretches on and on, with Schwarzenbach tossing off punk poetry smartly disguised as lyrics, until the song kicks into a thunderous instrumental section that will blow back your hair. Elsewhere, we have the rib-cracking ‘Lurker II: Dark Son of Night’, and the upbeat-yet-satirical ‘Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault’, which knowingly and wittily castigates a hipster house party.
The star of the show here is Schwarzenbach, with his raspy, mellifluous voice possessing a power and impact that far surpasses simple screaming. On ‘Sluttering (May 4th)’, which is probably one of the best kiss-offs to an ex ever written, he delves into romantic bitterness but resolutely defies typical tropes and clichés, instead choosing to deploy line after line of coruscating lyrics; “This is the story you won’t tell the kids we’ll never have / If you hear this song a hundred times it still won’t be enough.”
It is quite astounding how influential this album is – pretty much every single modern punk act of today, from Alkaline Trio to Rise Against, owes Jawbreaker a musical debt, and their albums continue to be discovered by a new generation of fans each year. To put it simply, if you’re a fan of any music that has guitars featured prominently in it, give Dear You a try, and see what you think. But be warned – once you’ve started regularly listening to Jawbreaker, it isn’t easy to stop…