The AV Club, a music/culture publication owned by The Onion, has a wonderful new segment called “What’s Does It Mean to Grow Up With a Band?” and the first entry, written by Jason Heller, focuses on the 1990s indie/punk trio Jawbreaker. The article is worth a read for any music lovers, not just fans of that band or scene. Heller captures the experience of discovering a band for the first time and being so young that you’re sure you’ll be into one type of music forever. His article made me feel 18 again, when I first discovered Jawbreaker’s albums Bivouac and 24-Hour Revenge Therapy, which I still consider one of the best pop-punk albums ever recorded. Like Heller, I was astounded by the band because prior to hearing them, I mostly listened to punk standards The Clash, The Ramones, Black Flag, The Dead Kennedys. But Jawbreaker did something a lot different with that style of music, creating a sound that was even more grizzled and gruff, complimented by the layered lyrics of Blake Schwarzenbach, who later quit music to obtain a Ph.D. in English literature. When I was in college, Jawbreaker and Blake’s following band, the more tempered Jets to Brazil, were staples for me, constantly booming in my headphones as I walked around campus. As a literature major, I was in awe of Blake’s ability to spin a metaphor and write about meaning found in daily conversations and occurrences. Heller compares some of the band’s lyrics to Raymond Carver’s stories, in the sense that they often end with an epiphany, sparked by an ordinary occurrence. I was also fascinated by Jawbreaker’s story, how soon they imploded after releasing a major label album, how close the band got to stardom, including opening for Nirvana in 1993.
Like Heller, I eventually left the punk/indie scene behind, exploring other genres of music. Still, I never skip over a Jawbreaker tune when it comes up on my I-Pod, and the music still sounds as fresh, exciting, and interesting to me as it did when I was 18. Like a lot of other fans, I have my fingers crossed that the band will play a reunion show one day, especially since a lot of the albums have just been re-released on CD and vinyl. In the meantime, there’s Blake’s new band to enjoy, The Forgetters.