Sunday, June 29, 2014

Inside Acoustic in Michael Dubin's Dorm Loyola College Baltimore, MD 1997

Inside – 516 - A Long Island Hardcore Compilation (1996)


11. Absence
12. Radio Flyer

Inside – My Funeral (1999)

With its roots firmly planted in the NYHC scene, Inside was an Emo/Alt-Rock band for the ages. Lacking any of the whiney, "look at me, I`m so different" trappings of the multitude of bands that followed in their footsteps, Inside's only true LP, My Funeral, is a testament to what this genre could have become and a sad reminder that "looking the part" will only take you so far. Can you tell I'm jaded?

Most every track here comes off like a Post-Hardcore aria, complete with the requisite twin rhythm guitars and Mallamo's full-throttle vocal assault. Where Jeremy Enigk was content to subdue his vocals and lyrics to the point of making up words and then burying them in the mix, Mallamo's strikingly clear voice rings out above the instruments with an authority not found elsewhere in this genre. Even when the lyrics stray into clichéd Emo territory, "This ring is a reminder, of a one night embrace/ Hold these words like a flower/ When you can't touch my face", Mallamo's delivery is so pure and engaging that he somehow manages to sell you on it and you're left with no choice but to sing along.

While "With This Ring" may be easily dismissible, "Jill Came Tumbling After", "The Theory Of Weights And Measures" "Hazel" and "Best 3 Out Of 5" display a maturity in songwriting that belies this band's relative inexperience. With only a handful of EPs to their credit, later compiled with part of a live show to create the pseudo-LP "7 Inches To Wall Drug", Florencio and Corrigan played distorted and inter-twining guitars with an authority Robert Smith would certainly recognize.
Amazon Customer Reviews
My Funeral; Inside's first full-length, also proved to be their final release and their swan song if you will. Driving guitars, soaring vocals and touching, personal lyrics form the bedrock of Inside's musical style. Musically this bears comparison to Elliott, Mineral and Sunny Day Real Estate. Members of Inside went on to form Blood Red and Dearly Departed, Inside, along with Silent Majority were arguably Long Islands biggest and best bands of the 90's. However, Inside, while just as good as Elliott, Mineral and their other contemporaries, just didnt seem to get the push that would have garnered them wide national appeal. Inside was voted "Band Of The Year" in Heartattack's 1999 readers poll. They toured the US four times, and hit Europe once, before disbanding. They played a reunion show in April 2004 to bid farewell to guitarist Vinny Corrigan before he moved to Ireland. 600 people converged on the small church it was held in to witness the best LI show of 2004.

Inside – Inside (1996)

The first Inside album.


1. Liquify (4:32)
2. Destination 2000 (2:38)
3. Never You (3:01)
4. Landscaping (3:16)
5. Unsound (1:59)
6. Inside (3:38)
7. Corners (4:17)
8. Q&A (3:07)

Inside – Inside (1996) 320kbps

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Jawbreaker ‎– Whack & Blite E.P. 7" (1989) + Chesterfield King 12" (1992)

A1 Lawn
A2 Crane

A1 Chesterfield King
A2 Tour Song 
A3 Face Down
B1 You Don't Know...
B2 Pack It Up 

Chesterfield King 12" (1992) 320kbps

Jawbreaker ‎– Dear You (1995)

1995's Dear You finds Jawbreaker cleaning up and streamlining their punk-pop sound and coming up with a sleek, slick punk-grunge classic that relies as much on clever songwriting and restrained emotions as it does on the group's trademarked high-energy attack. From the opening chords of the anthemic "Save Your Generation," Blake Schwarzenbach's vocals are the star. He was coming off of throat surgery that robbed him of a lot of his vocal power but gave him a smoky intimate sound that gives the feeling that he is whispering right in your ear. On songs like "I Love You So Much It's Killing Us Both" or "Jet Black," he sounds wounded in a way that screaming could never convey. The album is a powerful mix of jumpy punk-pop like "Bad Scene," "Everybody's Fault," "Fireman," and the aching "Chemistry" and mid-tempo tracks like the amazing "Jet Black," "Million," and "Basilica that escapes being tied to the time of grunge-by-the-numbers by being melodic and heartfelt without going over the top, by being just punk enough to be real and just epic enough to rise above the often boringly earnest approach of too many punk bands. Along with Weezer's Blue Album, Dear You is one of the cornerstones upon which emo and late-'90s punk-pop were built. Certainly Jimmy Eat World wore out their copy, as Bleed American sounds like a less produced younger brother, and Dashboard Confessional's whole oeuvre sounds like a lesser version of Dear You's acoustic "Unlisted Track." Depending on how you feel about emo, there is either a lot to blame Jawbreaker for or be thankful for here. Either way, Dear You is one of the best rock records of the '90s and a fitting last testament to a great band.
Tim Sendra
Many modern day emo bands will not hesitate to declare Jawbreaker one of their biggest influences, however Jawbreaker is far from being an emo band themselves. It is true that the majority of their songs are about some sort of relationship trouble, but their musical style is a far cry from any form of emo both old and new. With Jawbreaker's final release "Dear You" in 1995 a completely new sound was born that many bands have since tried to duplicate. None of these bands, however, have managed to produce a sound even close to Jawbreaker's. At times it is a sound packed with raw intensity, at other times it is a mellow sound with intricate melodies. A constant in all of the tracks on "Dear You" is a sincere and genuine emotional edge in all of Blake Schwarzenbach's vocals. This is the quality of Jawbreaker's sound that other band's are unable to duplicate. The pinacle of Schwarzenbach's emotional connection to the music an be heard in the track "Jet Black." You can litterally hear the despair in his voice amidst a musical backdrop that cannot come close to matching th vocals in emotional intensity.

The trouble with "Dear You" is that for the most part the tracks sound the same. True, there are slow quiet songs and fast loud but the quiet songs sound like the other quiet songs and the fast songs sound like the other fast songs. I fact almost all of the songs on the album follow the same pattern: A brief intro, a verse, a repeat of the verse, a chorus, a quick solo or interlude, another verse, another chorus, occasionally there is another solo here, and an outro.
The tracks sound so similar that during my first week of owning the album, I would litterally think I was listening to one track only to find out that I was listening to an entirly different one later on in the song. Not only do the songs on "Dear You" sound similar to each other, they sound similar to songs on other Jawbreaker albums. The first part of the chorus in "Save Your Generation" sounds almost identical to the chorus in the song "Chesterfield King" off of Jawbreaker's first album "Bivouac."

Another with Jawbreaker is that aside from the vocals, the musicians rarely showcase their abilities as musicians. Most of the songs are nothing but simple power chords and basic drum rythms. Occasionally there is a complex drum or guitar part but more often than not it's just mediocre musicianship. Lyrically, however, the album is outstanding. Though most of the lyrics are about relationship trouble they somehow don't come off as whiny as emo music does, largely due to Schwarzenbach's unique voice, and I find that it is easy to relate to the lyrics, something difficult for me to do with emo bands.

The highlight of "Dear You" would have to be the final track, which is simply titled "Unlisted Track." Honestly it would probably sound the same as all of the other tracks if not for the fact that it is played on an acoustic guitar.

Jawbreaker's final album "Dear You" is to this day a great example of modern pop punk and is a truly unique album from a truly unique band. Though the tracks sound the same a redeeming quality is that the sound is so unique that it really isn't too much of an issue. Despite the tracks' simalarities and mediocre musicianship i award Jawbreaker's "Dear You" with a 4/5

I don't feel the review section would be complete without someone saying something about this album. Yes, it was the first major label release by Jawbreaker, and their last release of new material as a band, but it still ranks in my top five albums I own. "Dear You" was also the bands first try at crystal clear production. It did cahnge the sound of the band a little(or a lot), but the songs are what really matter(although it would be cool to hear the same songs with the same production as on 24 hour or Bivouac).

These Jawbreaker tunes are shining examples of the bands style. Some are upbeat punk rock songs with odd chord and tempo changes, and some are the heavier alt-rock that could be considered the "grandfather of emo" type songs.All the songs overflow with Blake's poetic and meloncholy lyrics. Some may seem overdone, but if I could convey what he does with my lyrics, I'd probably have a tendancy to overdo it at times myself.

My favorite songs(if I have to pick) would be the opening anthem "Save your generation", the third track "Fireman", which I think has the best words to any Jawbreaker song, and "Accident Prone",a slower song that is soft and easy through some of it, and all out aggression in other parts.It also contains my favorite lines from any song,ever."I couldn't wait to breathe your breath,I cut in line I bled to death, I got to you there was nothing left." Other great songs are the rockin' "Chemistry", the story-telling punk song "Sluterring:May 4th", and the last track, which showcases every sound in the bands repituare, from saddened, slower easy listenin' to furious noise-core.

Some say that the major label demons killed Jawbreaker, and I wouldn't totally disagree with that, but this album is completely amazing and a must have for any fan of good, loud, thought out music with meaning. Believe it or not, I bought it when it was first released way back when for only 8.99$, and it was even at somewhere like Camelot Music. To this date, I have yet to buy an album that has influenced my musical taste as much as "Dear You". If you can find it, attain it, by whatever means neccesary.
Mark Williams

Jawbreaker ‎– 24 Hour Revenge Therapy (1994)

More trials and tribulations than an average episode of Melrose Place, Jawbreaker continues to explore their personal struggles on their third album, fittingly titled 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. Continuing on the Jawbreaker tradition of poetic lyrics that provide a mental image to each song, the band deals with their endeavors through music instead of wallowing in them, making this record not entirely bleak. "Do You Still Hate Me," for example, has the persona dishing out the friction of a relationship gone sour through talking to the person in question: "I wrote you a letter/I heard it upset you/How can I do this better/We're getting older/But we're acting younger." Being critiqued and ostracized from their scene during the height of their popularity was another headache singer/songwriter Blake Schwarzenbach dealt with around the time this album was released (their previous album, Bivouac, provided them with a huge cult following). This no doubt inspired the song "Indictment," which talks about not caring what anyone thinks of their songwriting ("I just wrote the dumbest song/It's going to be a singalong/Our enemies will laugh and be pointing/It wont bother me, what the thoughtless are thinking"). Providing the perfect flow of temperamental pop to go along with these stories is proof enough that 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is the pivot of Jawbreaker's creative output.
Mike DaRonco

Review Summary: 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is not only Jawbreaker's best work, but also an emotional punk masterpiece which has helped mold the pop-punk genre as we know it today in innumerable ways.

In the modern pop-punk realm, most bands’ success can be attributed to one album which would change the face of music as we currently know it. This album was the legendary Dookie by Green Day, the primary band responsible for the explosion of the genre in the mid-nineties along with The Offspring and blink-182. But going back even further than that, it is impossible to deny the fact that Jawbreaker had a huge influence on Green Day’s music. While Jawbreaker’s first two albums, 1990’s Unfun (with possibly the funniest album art ever) and 1992’s Bivouac, both were seminal underground hits, both albums also lacked that accessibility that made their immediate predecessor, 1994’s 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, such a classic and a huge influence on the bands that created the mainstream pop-punk sound that would rein triumphant over rock radio until nasal singing, cookie monster screaming, and pseudo-emotional lyrics (which extends Jawbreaker’s influence ever further) would become the more popular sound of the two.

Musically, it is very clear that bands such as Green Day were very heavily influenced by Jawbreaker. The band was well-known for crafting catchy and simplistic melodies without becoming tepid or uninspired, something that their more popular cohorts were sometimes incapable of. With only three members in the band, and a miniscule recording budget, the band was relatively incapable of creating overly complicated music. But fortunately, in Jawbreaker’s case, this was exactly what would suit them best. Sticking to the rudimentary three-chords that so many pop-punk bands are notorious for using, they were able to create a multitude of dynamics and emotions with what little they had-something that many less talented bands even to this day attempt and fail miserably.

“Condition Oakland” is an tremendous example of the band at their creative peak, starting out with urgent and catchy bounce, before transitioning to a brilliantly emotional chorus where singer Blake Schwarzenbach wails about the pains of being lonely and misunderstood in the most sincere and honest way possible. The gem of the song though, comes during the spoken word section, where a morose poem describing some of the bleak landscape of downtown Oakland is read over a throbbing bassline, light tinkering of a piano, and a twangy, emotive guitar line. “Condition Oakland” harkens back to Jawbreaker’s first two albums, both of which attempted to be a dark and mature take on the pop-punk that was coming into prominence at the time, while adding a more sprawling, epic feel to the music. It is ironic then, that this track accomplishes all of what their first two albums set out to do better than those albums did. It stands out as one of the most artistically challenging and emotional pop-punk songs ever written.

Singer Blake Schwarzenbach is a paradox. His vocals are certainly not what one would consider traditionally great: he is very raspy and has quite an edge to his vocals. But unlike so many other vocalists with similar issues, his vocals fit the music (and to a greater extent, the lyrics) perfectly. Recorded immediately after throat surgery to rectify the damage done from his even rougher vocal work on both Bivouac and Unfun, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy shows him at his emotional peak, fitting perfectly between the nearly unintelligible vocals from Jawbreaker’s earlier work, and the over-polished, whinier delivery prevalent on the bands swan song Dear You and the similar tone of his work with Jets to Brazil (Schwarzenbach’s first post-Jawbreaker effort).

Perhaps 24 Hour Revenge Therapy’s greatest strength lies in the lyrical content. Where Schwarzenbach’s earliest work with Jawbreaker could be considered almost myopic lyrically, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy expands upon the theme of loneliness and heartbreak that pervade both Bivouac and Unfun, while also introducing many other ideas. “Indictment” is a burning satire of the rock star mentality that Schwarzenbach so obviously despises, and an ironic attack upon bands looking to write substance-free music for the sake of popularity. “Boxcar” is an outward condemnation of the label-happy punk scene which began to cry “sellout” following the progression from their first two albums and an outward cry of basically “we don’t give a fuck” towards anyone who accused them of such a thing. “Do You Still Hate Me?” is most likely Jawbreaker’s most honest and poignant lyrical work in their discography, with only their opus “I Love You So Much It’s Killing Us Both” possibly being a contender. Schwarzenbach’s lyrical work on 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is extremely personal, almost to the point of being voyeuristic, while still being quite intelligent, with heavy reliance on metaphors and symbolism, and never cliché.

24 Hour Revenge Therapy is easily the gem of Jawbreaker’s impressive discography. It shows them at their peak artistically, refined a bit from their early efforts and more streamlined, but without some of the fundamental flaws. It also catches them prior to their major label debut, Dear You, where much of the impact of the songs is lost in the radio-friendly polish used thoroughly throughout the course of the album. To say that 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is for everyone would be incorrect: Certainly many will dislike the album for valid reasons. But although not everyone is inclined to enjoy it, it is fully capable of converting many listeners of varying tastes onto a completely different genre, and has provided a key release in the development and rise of a genre that is disdained by many and embraced by many more. Without 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, it is highly unlikely that pop-punk would be where it is today, and the music scene as we know it would be a completely different landscape.

Recommended Tracks: The Boat Dreams From the Hill, Condition Oakland, In Sadding Around, Do You Still Hate Me?
Joe Costa

The last true Jawbreaker album in terms of availablility - Dear You being tricky to find - and in terms of play-through quality - Unfun and Bivouac both now a combination of EPs and LPs. Needless to say this album still kills any punk rock album put out from when this album was released. Not much has come close to sounding like Jawbreaker despite the rants saying that Jawbreaker formed emo or some other BS like that. Jawbreaker doesn't embody emo even for a second. It should not even be a comparison for there is no comparison to be made. Apples and oranges if you will. Punk rock took a large blow with the demise of Jawbreaker and punk will be dead as soon as Fugazi dies. You cannot tell me that the bands nowadays hold any DIY ethic with the formation of large "punk rock" labels ala Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph. The bands sound so close to each other anyhow if not the same. The mood of 24 Hour Revenge Therapy fluctuates from joyous (The Boat Dreams From The Hill) to depressing (In Sadding Around). Kerouac no-doubt influenced Blake's writing as is apparent by the little line in Boxcar (" killing cops and reading Kerouac"). The included Kerouac poetry in Condition Oakland (perhaps the best song on the album) helps solidify this opinion. Every song is strong and I never find myself skipping a track for the next. Lastly, the albums layout and artwork further astonish. From the beautiful cover to the back to the inside with band pictures which aren't the sappy types found in the Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph which proclaim "look at me having a good time with all my friends." I don't care to see your friends. Overall this album just impresses. There is no excuse for not having it. Although I'd rather you didn't so I could sit in its glory alone.

Jawbreaker ‎– Bivouac (1992)

As the principal wordsmith for Jawbreaker, Blake Schwarzenbach was one of the first songwriters in the punk scene to embrace literary lyrics more personal and challenging than the often vague or pseudo-political proclamations of the early emo scene and far more intricate than almost all of the band's West Coast pop-punk contemporaries. In their short lifespan, Jawbreaker would arc from their scrappy melodic punk beginnings (Unfun, 1990) to a polarizing major-label swan song (Dear You, 1995) with everything in between, from high-tension band breakups to extended hospital stays, vicious criticism from former allies in the punk scene, and the creation of a subtle masterpiece in 1994's Steve Albini-recorded 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. Somewhere in the center lies Bivouac, Jawbreaker's second album and easily their stormiest, gruffest material. The album came after a brief breakup brought on by a devastatingly rocky summer tour, expressed to the hilt in the horrifying lyrics of "Tour Song," with its coda of "Every little thing must go wrong." With a little time, they reunited and relocated from New York to the Bay Area, taking a good amount of city grit with them and applying it to a foundation of sophisticated guitar-based pop songs. While Jawbreaker's heart was composed of Schwarzenbach's poetic storytelling and a sense of romance so immediate it touched the music as much as the lyrics, Bivouac is more marked with musical struggle than any other of the band's albums. Aggressive songs like "Face Down" and "Like a Secret" lean more on dissonance and buried vocals than the group's usual melodicism. Bearing in mind that the landscape of independent punk in 1992 was overshadowed by a booming grunge scene, it makes sense that Jawbreaker's toughest songs on Bivouac have hints of Helmet, Gish-era Smashing Pumpkins, and other acts of the day that were in the process of blowing up. Interspersing classic young-love pop songs like the timelessly sweet "Chesterfield King" and the optimistic "Shield Your Eyes" with more angsty material gives Bivouac a searching quality, clearly made by artists grasping for identity or clarity in changing times. The ten-minute title track finds the coagulation of all the shifting elements of the album, dialing in the swirling basslines and big grunge choruses with beat poet-inspired lyrics aiming to reconcile Holden Caulfield-esque displacement and alienation from immediate family. As the song churns on it sets the scene for what would come next in the band's discography, a more digestible and confident progression in lyrical and musical development. However, the journey to that development is a rocky one, and the unhinged urgency of Bivouac is an enormous moment, and one necessary to go through in order to take Jawbreaker from their naive punk beginnings to the one-of-a-kind band they grew to be before their star burned out abruptly.
Fred Thomas

Exactly how I felt, Blake. There was once promise in music, our society, and humanity in general. But all that hope is fading fast. I've seen bands use what was once the most offensive type of music and exploit it into a money making, trend setting industry.

I have seen violence and hatred plauge our planet, our country, and yes, our neighbors. Everyone knows about the 'terrorist attacks' in New York, but few know about the Siek individual(which is a completely different religion than the Muslim faith) in Phoenix Arizona U.S.A., who was murdered simply because he resembled the attackers. It is this type of blind, ignorant violence that will eventually be the untimely end of humanity.

The intesity of this Jawbreaker album can only be paralleled by Earth itself. Aggressive and up-front often, but underlying and soft at times as well. Songs like 'Chesterfield King' will go down as one of the greatest love-songs off all time(in my book anyway), while others such as 'Donatello' reach deep into the realms of saddness. 'p.s.New York is burning' is disturbingly accurate, almost a decade in advace. It is a complete rollercoaster of human emotion, from depression to rock-stardom. In high school, I was sure I would be the one to write beautifully ugly songs, intensively disgusting and yet softly ellegant at the same time. To my disgression, it had already been done.

Little did Jawbreaker know that the sloppy, ear-aching sound they were playing would eventually be over-produced, capitolized, and distributed to the masses as 'emo'. However, they took the often stagnite punk rock sound to a whole new level of experimation, intesity, and emotion, while remaining raw and unscathed.

'Bivouac', what appears to be your average, run-of-the-mill punk record, is everything but that. An unpredictable, inventive, lyrically-genius album ahead of its time.

In a day where one sees eveything he wishes he didn't see, there is an answer... 

With Jawbreaker's first album, Unfun, they proved themselves to be more than just a Punk band. They were energetic, dark, and with poetic lyrics that resemble the arty beat poetry of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Chuck Bukowski, but with a twist that was, and is, described as emo. But on Bivouac, Jawbreaker mastered that.

Slower than Unfun, Bivouac is a look at the world from the inside out. The songs are slow shades of poetic alienation that goes a few steps above teenage poetry (a lot of steps) and perfectly take stabs at the world. "Shield Your Eyes" opens the album perfectly. It starts off with a small line of feedback, and a quick drum roll before going into the song with a great melody covered by a wall of distortion. The bass line is bouncy and the drums are perfect, but it's the lyrics that are the true catch. It tells the story of a man who looks straight into the sun, which "Lights the whole damn sky", and is blinded. "He can't do anything, Everything is a lie." That single line sums up the whole record. Unlike most bands, Jawbreaker takes an equal amount of storytelling, preaching, and self deprecating into one mix; most bands take one of those elements and just stretch it until it pops.

As always, the rhythm section of Chris Bauermeister and Adam Pfahler is top notch. They prove to be very versatile tempo-wise, and always keep up with the wall of distortion that Blake cemented into the band's sound. One of the best examples is "Face Down". The song's bass line is great; simple, yet extremely effective. The drums show an equal amount of fluency, as they aren't too fast nor too slow.

Donatello is another example of how, lyrically, Jawbreaker was the best. There's poetry, "I'm gonna cut my strings and kill the puppeteer. Then I'll walk on out of here", and in your face, to the point, one liners, "Sure you made an impression. Depression". It also features some of Blake's most passionate singing. He switches from almost whispering slurs into passionate yelps at the world. There's a short recorded spoken word interlogue as well. "When it all comes down, I can show you something you will not believe. When it all comes down, we're gonna see a real masterpiece. With an artist's eye and a killer's touch. Takes a life to make one."

So, in case you haven't noticed, I think Blake is a lyrical genius. Most punk lyricists just stood to the loud and fast rules back in those days. But Blake presented something much different, something that appealed to a whole new group of kids, waiting for the next Rites of Spring, the next wave of emo. Over the years, however, he has been mimicked by little wannabe pop-punk bands that stole the originality of it and made it, unfortunately, a bad take on teenage poetry.

One of the best songs on the album is the self explanatory, Tour Song. Despite the differing subject matter, Tour Song has the same approach as the previous songs. It shows that touring's main catch is playing, and even that is hard to get through. "Chesterfield King" is one of the lighter tunes on the album, describing an affair, but with a beat twist. "She asked me if I had a name. I told her I was glued up on some chick. We sat and smoked against the wall. Drank a beer, felt the chill of fall."

This incredible record ends with the epic, ten minute and six second, "Bivouac". Out of all the sad songs on this record, the saddest has got to be this one. Similar to The Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray", Bivouac is loose and jammy, but still with a sense of direction. The lyrics are also poetic and arty, something that could describe this record perfectly.

Most people call 24 Hour Revenge Therapy the band's best album. Which makes sense; it's the band's most accessible record before signing to a major label. So all the so called "real fans" that "stick it to the man" by not listening to Dear You, go for Revenge Therapy, the same reason all the "hardcore Green Day fans", go for Kerplunk, instead of Dookie. But I'm not going to waste my time. In my opinion, Bivouac is the band's Classic. It's dark, emotional, witty, and arty, but still with the flare of Punk rock.

They never became a household name and people still think Face to Face or some shitty "pop punk" band wrote "Chesterfield King", but Jawbreaker were a huge deal for a lot of people. I remember driving from New Brunswick, N.J., to Philadelphia to bring my girlfriend a promo cassette copy of Dear You, the group's 1995 post-Green Day major label debut. It had arrived a day earlier at the record store where I worked, and I thought she'd want to hear it. I got out of the van, showed it to her; she tossed it on the ground, smashed it under her foot. Around that same time, a guy I knew from local basement shows, came into the record store, pointed to the tattoo of the Jawbreaker logo on his arm, and shook his head. He had tears in his eyes.

This was a band the underground didn't want to lose, at a time when commerce wasn't so closely intertwined with everyday listening experiences. Formed while they were students at NYU, the trio of vocalist/guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach, bassist Chris Bauermeister, and drummer Adam Pfahler relocated to Los Angeles and released their debut, Unfun, in 1990 (it was reissued by Blackball in 2010). Unfun was a good (very fun) record, a solid dose of early 90s emotional, literate punk that established the raw-voiced Schwarzenbach as an underground hero. The band went on the so-called "Fuck 90" tour with Econochrist that summer and broke up, but managed to get back together, relocate to San Francisco, and record 1992's Bivouac.

The record found them experimenting, and pushing into deeper, angrier, heavier (and headier) waters. People cite 1994's Steve Albini-helmed 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, which showed up after they played some shows in 1993 with Nirvana, as the group's pre-major label masterpiece. But Bivouac has always held a special place for me. It's their darkest collection, a sprawling, shaggy-dog set that found them transitioning from the cleaner, calmer Unfun to something grittier, wilder, and smarter. Bivouac was a ragged call to arms, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy an ambitious offering within that newer space they'd created.

Bivouac also includes one of their most beloved songs, "Chesterfield King", a poppy anthem a lot of people saw themselves in. It was a perfect punk vignette. In just about four minutes Schwarzenbach sets a scene ("We stood in your room and laughed out loud/ Suddenly the laughter died and we were caught in an eye to eye/ We sat on the floor and did we sit close") as vivid as good fiction. One of his gifts was finding a way to present specific, personal details ("Held your hand and watched TV and traced the little lines along your palms") and make them feel universal. So, here, when the protagonist cuts out to catch his breath and ends up sharing smokes and thoughts with a toothless woman in a 7-11 parking lot, you sort of remember this happening to you, too.

But it's not all love and lovesickness. From opener "Shield Your Eyes" ("There was a sun once/ It lit the whole damn sky/ It kept everything alive") onward this is an apocalyptic record filled with bigger kinds of searches, depression, and dirt. You get that soul sickness in "P.S. New York Is Burning", "Parabola"'s "I saw myself in someone else and hated them," and "Like a Secret"'s request: "Don't talk me down from here/ Let me fly this kite without a string." It shows up clearest, and more impressively, in the 10-minute closing title track's search for meaning: "I'm lonely/ I'm an only/ I learned to put on airs/ I needed them to breathe/ Today I wake up." Here, Schwarzenbach sets an earth clawing scene ("I dug my fingers in the earth/ I drew picture of my pain/ They were so pretty") punctuated by feedback, noise, and the singer's howling of the album title, a shout that hurts and brings down the shelter he's place around himself. It's a call for help, though one that doesn't need to be answered. You get the sense that it's the act itself that mattered most.

Biouvac's 20th Anniversary CD reissue, remastered by John Golden from the original tapes, includes songs from the original studio sessions: "Ache", which showd up on 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, and "Peel It the Fuck Down", which appeared on the 2002 compilation Etc. Like the original 1992 CD, this version includes the four-songs that appeared on the 1992 Chesterfield King 12": "Tour Song", "Face Down", "You Don't Know", and "Pack It Up". For those who followed the band at the time, those tracks have always felt as much a part of the tracklisting as the 9-song vinyl version. (Fittingly, Blackball has also reissued the 9-song Bivouac and Chesterfield King 12" on vinyl for the first time in years.)

One of those Chesterfield King tracks, "Tour Song", ends with the line: "Every little thing must go wrong." But, the truth is, despite things not working out exactly as planned, everything did not go wrong. People were angry when Schwarzenbach had painful polyps removed from his vocal chords and were ready to riot when, later, he cleaned up his vocal sound for Dear You. That record didn't sell well enough according to DGC standards, Jawbreaker never became the next Nirvana or Green Day, and in 1996 the group called it quits. But, in retrospect, Dear You was the right record for the band to make. (It's a great album, just not the one you wanted to hear when you were 21 and navigating a close-knit underground that hadn't dealt with this sort of thing firsthand.) So, yeah, Jawbreaker may have grown up before we were ready for them to grow up, but their music has managed to age especially well. It feels as vital now as it did two decades ago.  
Brandon Stosuy 

Jawbreaker ‎– Unfun (1990)

   Jawbreaker could be easily described as a pop-punk band with more of a dark side. Not that this isn't true, but it just wouldn't do this trio any justice to their poetic lyrics and complex song structures. With Unfun, a very influential record way ahead of its time, they make a name for themselves -- not as your run-of-the-mill punk band with a verse-chorus-verse style, but rather as a band that provides fitting background to the personal side that they're not afraid to show. For example, take one of the more energetic songs on the album, "Busy," in which the person offers a helping hand to a friend on the verge of mental collapse ("When nothing seems to be quite worth it and sleep becomes the only sure thing/I'm here to help you out of it/Come and see me for a lift"). But two tracks later, self-doubt and guilt are present in "Wound": "Feel my burning rash/Old scabs on my back/Deep red welts from hating myself/I was once, once so strong." Quite an emotional roller coaster, but at the same time it gives Unfun its edge and originality.
Mike DaRonco

I feel like I'm betraying an old friend by writing this review. Before he condemns me for my transgression, however, let me begin to defend myself by saying that we really haven't been in touch recently. He's been hanging around with his brothers on my shelf and I've been hanging around with newer bands, people I now find infinitely more interesting than him.

Although, having just admitted that, I realize that this review might end up seeming like I'm betraying him twice over. Not only am I unearthing our long-ago, once-vital friendship for the lone purpose of writing about him, but I'm also baldly admitting that he's become less of a friend to me. Sure, I still pull him out for a spin now and again, usually when I'm feeling like I haven't heard from him in eons, and we always have a blast. But mostly, I seem to forget about him. (If you must know, his spine is fading a bit from over ten years sitting in the sun in whatever apartment in which I happened to be living. And it's getting damn hard to read his name anymore. So perhaps it's no wonder I don't look him up more; he's literally become invisible.)

But there's also a third betrayal I'm making by committing these words to paper. I'm not going to be talking so much about my old friend's musical qualities that once brought and still bring me so much happiness for this tribute to him. True, there are tons of these qualities, probably more than will fill this paragraph—the galloping percussive bass and sustained guitar chords that open "Want", the first song on the record, the clever use of sampled dialogue in "Incomplete" and "Eye-5", the impossibly-fast drums and breathless lyrics of "Gutless"—but, uncovering him once again for the purpose of writing about him, I'm more struck by how this record has become symbolic of two things for me, one of which is easy to discuss, the other being more elusive.

I want first of all to explain how this record hit me when I first heard it, shortly after it was released on CD in 1992. It sounded like a perfect sonic brew of the genres I obsessed over in high school—heavy metal and college rock when "college rock" meant what the radio station outcasts (not the fraternities) were listening to—and combined the driving musical aggression of the former with the melodic sensitivity of the latter. Like the rap music I was also listening to at the time, its lyrics were personal and intelligent. (For evidence of this, listen to "Busy". Its eager awkwardness comes across as strangely coherent; it's like having a wee-hours drunken conversation about the profundities of the world that lasts well into the rest of your life.)

That paragraph, though, is all musical evaluation; it would do well to be summarized in the following statement: Unfun sounds pretty much the same right now as it did then.

So why am I wasting finger movements and stomach acid trying to write about this record? Well, this is where the elusiveness begins: it was my introduction to the punk rock/d.i.y. music community. This community was one of which I was utterly ignorant; only later, when I became submerged in it, did I realize that it existed outside of the confines of the mainstream that I did know. A friend in college (a real flesh-and-blood friend, not an aluminum disc friend) who was in a punk band introduced me to the record, telling me it was one of his favorites. In order to find a CD copy for myself, since I wore out the cassette copy I made of his, I scoured the copies of Maximum Rock N Roll that he loaned me and went with him when he went to independent record stores and punk rock shows. After I found the record, things just seemed to blossom.

Now, I could go on and on about the bands I started listening to, the shows I started seeing, the people I started meeting, the friends I started making. This would clearly demonstrate my total Jawbreaker-sparked engulfment by this outsider community (and thus make for good writing). But the point I want to make is one that's more difficult to argue (and thus make for not-so-good writing): this record is doubly symbolic for me. It's representative both of my gateway into the musical community of punk rock/d.i.y. and into the ideological community of punk rock/d.i.y. culture.

So at what point did listening to punk rock music lead to a change in my cultural world-view or ideology? How does consuming a product of a certain public culture lead to a personal ideological change? What were the specific steps by which this happened to me? I know that it wasn't Jawbreaker's music or lyrics alone on the record that did it. Nor was it the hundred or so bands that I discovered as a result of the record. Nor was it any one of the friends I made, the books I read, the movies I saw, the papers I wrote, the thoughts I thought, or the things I said since those months in 1992 when my mind and world opened up for the better.

As close to an epiphanic moment in this tribute as I'm going to reach, those last few sentences are pretty cringe-worthy. But writing about Unfun as a specific cultural product of a specific place and time in my life that has had lasting effect just feels right fucking on. I'm sure my old friend would approve. 
Anthony C. Bleach

There really is no definitive album in Jawbreaker's discography, but in that sense, Unfun may be just as crucial as anything else in their catalogue.

The spectacularly heralded, endlessly romanticized Bay Area punk band produced four full-lengths with so many widely ranging points of contention among critics and fans regarding the band's musical trajectory and career decisions, it's left no one album to claim as the band's essential. If you ask Allmusic, they'll tell you 1993's 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is tops, with 1995's Dear You and 1990's Unfun in close range. Ask Steve Albini and he'll call it a "decent, if standard pop punk record of the type that was pretty common in the mid-90s"--and he produced the fucking thing. And if you navigate to Pitchfork, you'll see they took the time to shit all over Dear You--twice--before qualifying this recent reissue of the band's debut LP as "irrepressibly fun." Less jaded fans are probably prone to calling Dear You the classic; scene fixtures and musicians like Bob Nanna tend to place 24 Hour on said pedestal. In this reviewer's opinion, the band seemed to improve with every passing release (though the pronounced remaster on Unfun begs to differ the merits of said evaluation).

Still, though, trying to regard a place for Jawbreaker's first full-length within the canon of their catalogue seems near impossible, but that vague notion of status also makes it a little more vital to the full "Jawbreaker experience." In turn, perhaps that's what warrants a proper reissue of Unfun. Blackball's redux offers a remaster of the entire record, along with a bonus track--the 7" mix of "Busy." The band's 1989 EP, Whack & Blite, is here too, though it appeared on all original CD pressings anyhow. I don't believe the original 7" liner notes were replicated in the original Unfun booklet, however, and here they're represented for perusal in all their Xeroxed glory. Sound-wise, the remaster seems to add a little more "pop" to the overall mix; the percussive nuances are more distinct as well. As for the alternate "Busy" offered, Blake Schwarzenbach's voice seems a little sharper and the bass is turned up a bit, but it's largely not all that different.

Of course, the record itself has aged incredibly well. From Schwarzenbach's macadam-encrusted yelps on fan-favorite opener "Want" and the driven, emotional thrust on "Fine Day" that would hint at a career made on heartbreaking restraint, to the nimble, distortion-dipped fingering on "Busy" and Schwarzenbach's nasal, desperate commands on "Gutless" not to fall behind, its unfiltered, raw surge seemed relentless. Sure, the melodies were a little unrefined and the songs often stagnantly operated on the same rough, tumbling plane, but it still made for a bustling, impressive debut all the same. That it was a mere foundation for the ambitious, big hooks of 24 Hour and the polished moroseness of Dear You hardly hurts its relevance--Unfun was where they had the forward charge but still knew to occasionally proceed with caution. And hell, Whack & Blite closer, "Eye-5" was easily one of the most memorable songs in the front half of the band's catalogue, spiraling into an epic, sound clip-laden finish the band would rarely replicate in form for years.

So perhaps the minor bonus features here themselves are what makes Unfun just a little more essential, but the Jawbreaker chronology is still so overanalyzed and prodded at that missing out on any point could very well be remiss.

   San Francisco's Jawbreaker straddled a pivotal moment when emo was a "core": halfway between insult and genre, hardcore and pop, underground and mainstream. Their lyrics stressed both punk principles and emotional outpourings. Their music was furious but catchy, with a set of mannerisms that flowed smoothly into indie-rock, pop-punk, and alt-rock: palm-muted power chords laced with bright octaves and harmonics; guitar leads rounding off into whistling feedback; counter-melodic bass lines; and epic breakdowns with arty sampled monologues. They had lofty ideals, but their songs walked around on the streets, sullen and pissed, with fresh scabs and dog-eared volumes of Bukowski in their back pockets.

The phrase "emo-core" itself is a problematic compromise between hardcore and pop-- an angst-inducing identity for a young band. Blake Schwarzenbach was 22 when Jawbreaker's 1990 debut, Unfun, came out, and this was but one of the pressures that drove him. Recriminating tunefully through a shredded throat, he calibrated himself against a punk scene and adult world of coequal injustice. Unfun was Jawbreaker's punkest record, but he feared it wasn't punk enough: "Sorry we ain't hard enough to piss your parents off," he snipped on "Incomplete". His fretful intelligence often led him to dispense free psychological evaluations and strawman parables. There are many issues-based songs: "Softcore" is anti-porn, and "Seethruskin" is anti-racism. It gets almost Orwellian: "Don't think that I ain't counting all the things you do," Schwarzenbach bristles in scene-cop mode. (He always loved those sassy "ain'ts.") To that extent, the record earns its title.

Yet the music itself is irrepressibly fun. Drummer Adam Pfahler was a fucking behemoth, a whiz with galloping toms and breathtakingly long fills. He sounds great on this low-end boosted reissue, which, on CD and download, also includes the formative Whack & Blite EP. And Schwarzenbach's prickliness was ultimately sympathetic, because it stemmed from a vulnerability he laid bare in songs like "Want", where dark secrets are exorcised in the name of love. "So now you know where I come from," he sings, underlining it twice for emphasis: "My secret's come undone/ My heart reveals my cause." The world is fallen, but he's not dancing on the wreckage. He's looking for survivors, imploring on "Busy", "We're all close to the end; don't you need a friend?/ Honor your allegiances!"

By 1995's major-label but still-fierce swan song, Dear You, Jawbreaker seemed wholly out of step with the scene that revered them; a broken lineage made painfully clear by the terrible cover versions modern emo bands produce. Schwarzenbach managed one pretty great album with Jets to Brazil, Orange Rhyming Dictionary, before petering out into mojo-less soft rock. With reunion and documentary rumors rumbling, Jawbreaker is primed for renewed attention, though one wonders what emo fans raised on Dashboard Confessional, Warped Tour, and Vagrant Records will make of their pinched, petulant sound. Regardless, the original music stands tall. On Unfun, Jawbreaker's conviction that punk could open up to pop while staying hardcore burns more urgently than ever, in the retrospective light of futility.
Brian Howe