Today I’m taking a look (or should we say listen) back through Jawbreaker’s albums. The band has only grown in popularity over the years with the advent of the internet and especially Youtube giving them fresh exposure to those who were either too young when they happened or just weren’t that aware of them at the time. This has brought in a fresh audience who are judging the band on their music rather than the politics surrounding them. Bands like this only come along once in a blue moon.
I could quite easily have called this Jawbreaker’s top 20 songs as I easily came up with 20 songs I wanted for this list.
Top 10 Jawbreaker Songs
1. Boxcar -- It just had to be!
2. Condition Oakland
4. Ache (Bivouac Bonus Track)
6. Kiss the Bottle
7. Shield Your Eyes
9. Sluttering (May 4th)
Key songs: Incomplete
For a Debut album that was recorded in only 2 days there’s a lot to like about this album. This is 3 guys ready to take on the World with limited abilities making what could be their one & only shot at an album. It almost was as after a brief tour they split up!
On “Incomplete” below Blakes songwriting prowess is already evident. “And all the broken nursery rhymes,
Old hopes cracked open by cynical minds, We’ll try to work them out sometime”. This is one of my favourite songs on the album.
Every time I listen to this album something new stands out. It’s definitely high up my list.
Key songs: Sleep, Ache
Below “Sleep” with its sombre lyrics and almost lullaby chorus leaving you 1 step away from swaying left to right with lighters ablaze. I think most people can relate to wanting to sleep and hide away instead of having to face the struggles in life. “I know that I must try to, break out of this cell I call my life, To go to sleep is just to hide away. I close my eyes so I won’t, see the things I’d have to try to get, I haven’t tried I’ve only turned away”.
24 Hour Revenge Therapy (1994)
Key songs: Boxcar, Outpatient, Condition Oakland
Below on my number 1 selection “Boxcar” is Jawbreakers answer to the constant scrutiny over punk labelling.. What is and isn’t punk? Show me the rule book! Go back to the 70s and even the Sex Pistols were accused of not being Punk! Their songs were too slow apparently.
Next up is “Outpatient”. After Bivouac was released Jawbreaker were on tour and Blake was having vocal issues due to a throat polyp, he would lose his voice on stage, cough up clumps of blood.. It got serious and the tour had to be derailed so he could have surgery on it. This song is about that experience.
A favorite on the album, It’s slow getting started but soon has you on the chorus.
Finally, on this album my last pick is “Condition Oakland”. One of my favourites on the album, I knew it as soon as I heard the opening.
The album is listed at number 12 on Rolling Stones 50 Greatest Pop-Punk Albums.
Dear You (1995)
Key songs: Sluttering
The album is my least favorite by the band. The raw sound that I love is gone, Blakes vocals are soft and clean and the overall sound is an overproduced version of Jawbreaker where once upon a time each members contribution stood out now 2/3rds of the band sound dulled down. Maybe I just didn’t get it? There were lots of disgruntled fans when they signed to a Major label as they said it was something they weren’t going to do.
The bands own reasons for doing so were because they were on the verge of breaking up and this move was necessary in order for the band to continue.
I can understand why the fanbase is torn over this one and in my view it depends where you’re coming from. For me it’s too much of a departure from the Jawbreaker albums I love. If I’m too embarrassed to play it loud then something is wrong.
The albums sales were poor upon release, many fans felt betrayed and some even sat with their backs to the stage, when they were playing songs from the album!
Key songs: Shield your Eyes, Rich, Kiss the Bottle
My 1st choice off this album is “Shield Your Eyes”. This b-side version is much more raw and slightly slower tempo than the later version which would appear in a more polished form with cleaner guitar on 1992’s Bivouac album. It’s a toss up between the two but I think this version takes it on the vocals. I believe this version was recorded as the 1st song Schwarzenbach sang on when they were still called “Rise” and it defined the direction on which the bands music would go and caused the previous singer Jon Liu to be ejected from the band in order to continue with Schwarzenbach on vocals as a 3-piece. Shortly after the Band renamed themselves Jawbreaker.
The other I want to mention is “Kiss the Bottle”. What can you say about this amazing song? Blakes voice was shot by this point and he had surgery lined up to repair the issue. Some people say he sounds dreadful on this song but I think it adds to the tone of the song and the message. He really does sound like he chose to kiss the bottle!
Will Jawbreaker ever reform?
Low and behold Jawbreaker reformed last summer 2017! After a few “One off” shows and a Documentary are out touring again and working on new material this summer (2018)!
If they release a new record I’m not expecting a Bivouac or a 24 Hour Revenge Therapy but something which represents who they are now. The music they make should be the music they want to make and not what they think fans want to hear, there’s a whole new audience out there. If you want to find out more visit their Homepage or their Bandcamp page.
What makes for a good Jawbreaker song? For most it’s Schwarzenbach’s songwriting, often retrospective, poetic, observational, dealing with fears, regrets & frustrations with life with little humorous twists thrown in. For me, the best songs are the ones that no matter what i’m doing at some point in the song it will steal my attention and I usually have to move to it in some way. It could be something as simple as a riff or a bridge section.
It’s nice to be surprised, especially where you think a song is headed suddenly randomly throws you a curve ball. Occasionally a message in a song will penetrate my consciousness and I’ll be thinking about it for a while. If it gets to the point where I’ve played the same song several times in an hour I have to restrain myself so that I don’t mentally wear the song out. I think most can relate to that problem! Luckily with Jawbreaker there are many songs I can listen to repeatedly.
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