October 31, 2002

Jawbreaker "Etc."

Ah, nostalga. If there's one band that's been romanticized, it's Jawbreaker. Considered one of the fathers of modern-day pop-punk and emo (for which they have since apologized), Jawbreaker have been elevated to godlike status--much to the disdain of former leader/current Jets to Brazil frontman Blake Schwarzenbach. Go to eBay and type in "Jawbreaker," and you'll see some heavy-duty and high-dollar selling going on, mainly for t-shirts, impossible-to-find compilations, singles, and the seemingly very hard to find and instantly out-of-print final (and major-label debut) album, Dear You. Thankfully, Jawbreaker decided to "close the book" on the past, and compiled all of the rarities and numerous outtakes.

I'm particularly fond of the last few songs; unlike most Jawbreaker fans, I happen to love Dear You. At the time, it seems that nobody did. Funny, because those who villified the band for their decision and their record soon scratched their heads and felt sad when Jawbreaker split. The politics of the band, and the relationship between fan and band and even between the band members would be enough to qualify it for a Punk Rock Behind the Music.

If you're a fan, this collection will have much you might have missed. Compilation tracks, spit-single songs, and a number of outtakes from all stages of their career, as well as notes for each song, as well as lyrics written by Aaron Cometbus. But if you're like me and are immune to overwrought fandom, don't worry. Etc. may be one aimed for the fans, but it's as fine a start as anywhere. Though I'm slightly less warm to their eariler, screamier style, it's certainly not "bad", just not my thing. Listen, though, to the differences in styles between "Kiss the Bottle" and "First Step"--when Schwarzenbach had throat surgery, his voice changed...and it seems like the band changed as well; the songs grew slower, more melodic, and a tad more introspective. See, Jawbreaker ruled when it came to melody tempered with utterly intelligent lyrics.

I remember that when Dear You came out, the biggest complaint about it was how "different" it sounded--how polished, how clean, how slow it all seemed. Funny, but when I listen to "First Step," "Sea Foam Green," and "Housesitter," the progression from 24-Hour Revenge Therapy to Dear You seems quite natural. I mean, was it really that much of a departure? I guess, to some people who took the band terribly seriously, it was. "Friendly Fire" proves that they really understood what was going to happen to them: "Walked beyond the fence/Played outside our yard/You took it hard" reeks of self-fulfilling prophecy.

What really gets me, though, is how the final song from the Dear You sessions is a re-recorded version of one of their most-loved songs, "Boxcar." To me, it seems as if they were looking to their past to justify their future; they weren't playing by the rules, and rerecording their song that stated that they didn't play by the rules might have been an appeal to the fans; it certainly seems as if it was a case of a band closing the books on their history, one final epitaph, a sign pointing to their fans saying, "AHA! You knew all along, but you failed to listen to us!" Or, maybe they just had a few moments and decided to record a song from their past, just to see how it went. Ironically, this song, had it been released, could have kicked the piss out of Blink-182 and, ya know, coulda been a contender. Or not. Only Blake, Chris, and Adam know why they did it--and they have nothing to answer for. Enjoy it for what it is--great music.

Jawbreaker are now simply a part of the past, but this makes a case for their place in history. The true closing of the book will come when Dear You is reissued. All three members are happy, doing well, and living their lives---and the fans who turned their backs and booed at them during the last stage of their career together might have asked "where'd you go" now have ample evidence to show that they were the ones who missed out, not Jawbreaker.

--Joseph Kyle

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