Jawbreaker - Dear You
One of the big problems with pop-punk is its familiarity; while some might champion it's ability to reach a wider audience, most artists in this genre have a tendency to melt into homogenized pap, which is why it's essential to recognize the great ones when they come along and seperate them from legions of pretenders.
Of course I'm talking about Jawbreaker. Who else could it be? And when talking about Jawbreaker, one is inevitably led to their tour de force/swan song, 'Dear You'.
After spending eight years, three albums and a multitude of e.p.s and singles vascillating between hardcore experimentalism and melodic punk, the release of 'Dear You' in 1995 cemented Jawbreaker's role in establishing the ground rules in what we'd come to know as pop-punk. Opening track 'Save Your Generation' sets the tone immediately with crisp guitars, breakneck drumming and vocals that smack of bratty irreverence and older-sibling-cool at the same time; and from there, it's a non-stop drag-race through thirteen songs, the energy letting up only slightly for slow-burners such as 'Accident Prone' and 'Jet Black'; Blake Schwarzenbach's guitars and Chris Bauermeister's bass complement each other seamlessly, and Adam Pfahler's percussion only helps build up the sense of urgency in the songs.
All of which would be nothing without Schwarzenbach's lyrics; one of Jawbreaker's hidden strengths was their ability to rip a page from your high school diary and somehow meld it with the existential dread of missing a rent deadline, all the while dealing with the fact that getting drunk every night is getting less and less fun - oh, and all of your friends are growing up in ways that are alien to you, you're not sure if you're happy with who you see in the mirror, and you've just realized that the only reason you and your girlfriend are together is because you're both afraid of being alone.
And then you lose your job; but fuck it, right?
'Dear You' actually lost Jawbreaker quite a few fans when it came out, as it's sound was cleaner than earlier outings and the band's new home on Geffen didn't sit well with indie purists, to say nothing of going from producer Steve Albini to the guy who made Green Day's 'Dookie' (not that I'd ever say that as a criticism, but you can just hear all the punks shitting bricks over it...); all of which is unfortunate, as Jawbreaker put out what is possibly their most mature and powerful recording without losing the edge that made them cool in the first place. (After wrangling the rights back from Geffen, the band then reissued it in 2004 on Blackball Records with five new tracks, notably 'Into You Like A Train' and a new version of their seminal 'Boxcar'. Seek this out, it's worth it.)
It's pop-punk at it's finest - in fact, it's almost a disservice to call it simply pop-punk, but there ya go. If you don't own a copy of 'Dear You' then there's something wrong with you.
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