Audio Lore

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Out Of The Vaults #3- Jawbreaker- DEAR YOU

In our new apartment there is one wall with 10 cabinets stacked from floor to ceiling with a sliding library style ladder to reach the high ones. These cabinets were custom built by a previous owner. Inside each cabinet is four shelves, each one the perfect width for a CD. This is what sold me on the apartment.These are the "Vaults" were the music is stored.

Each week or so I will ask my wife to dive deep into the cabinets and pull out a random CD. The chosen album will then be given to me and I will "muse" on the disc for awhile in this blog no matter how good, bad, or embarrassing the chosen disc is. Where did I buy it, how old was I, first reaction to hearing the album, do I still listen to it today and anywhere else my stream of conscious will take me in regards to the "Out Of The Vaults" weekly pick.

Out Of The Vaults #3: Jawbreaker - Dear You

Jawbreaker has been one of my favorite bands since I picked up their debut album Unfun because I thought the cat on the cover was cute. Since then I have purchased all their albums, singles,ep's and any compilation they appeared on.

Overall I have to admit I was a little disappointed with Jawbreaker's third album 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. It wasn't that the album was bad it just seemed to not be done right. Where as with the two previous albums 1990’s Unfun and 1992 Bivouac, all the songs were perfectly placed. Great songs leading them off with great songs bringing them to the close. On 24-Hour Revenge Therapy the lead off track “Boat Dream from a Hill” sounds awkward leading off the record. If it was not a compact disc I would have thought I accidentally started the record off on Side B. The songs sound awkward coming after each other too. There was hardly any  flow to the record. Also many of the songs sounded the same. This was probably in part because of the Steve Albini production. The only exceptions on this album being “Indictment” and “Boxcar” but even those two sound very similar to each other. Even though Jawbreaker is one of my favorite bands and Steve Albini is one of my favorite producers, sometimes the two just don’t mix well together. The same thing happened when Albini produced a Fugazi album a few years earlier. The only difference being the Fugazi album was shelved and never  released. .

Dear You, set to be released in September 1995 was to be the first Jawbreaker album to be released on a major label. Many fans and zine writers criticized the band for signing to a major. I on the other hand welcomed it. It was the days before point and click internet music buying and sometimes hunting down these independent releases took a while especially for a college student in Long Island without a car. Bivouac was out for nearly half a year before I finally tracked down a copy. With Dear You being released on DGC, home of Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Weezer, the record should be available at any major music outlet.

But there was a the question about what the record would sound like. Rob Cavallo who was mainly known for his production of Jawbreaker’s friends Green Day, was called in for production duties. Would this take away all of Jawbreaker’s rough edges we had grown to love over the years? With the band coming off a short tour opening for Nirvana, would the alternative/grunge gods rub off on Jawbreaker’s sound? There was also the question of lead singer/guitarist Blake Swarzenbach's voice. Over the past few years he had a few throat surgeries. Would he still have that voice which made Jawbreaker so original?

When September arrived all my questions were answered.

Track 1 "Save Your Generation" comes blaring out of your speakers. On the song singer Blake's vocals are definitely a lot clearer then on past Jawbreaker records but they are not too far up front like I feared they would be. The song also includes what would go on to be one of my favorite lyric of all time. "Survival never goes out of style"

Track 2 "I love You So Much It's Killing Us Both" is also a nice scorcher, this time even faster and heavier than track 1. Somewhere underneath there is an actual love song about two people determined to make it work regardless of being totally wrong for each other. Together the two tracks are a great one two punch to start off the album.

Track 3 "Fireman" , the single of the album, is definitely catchy and a little radio friendly but there are a few welcome awkward time changes that  keep the song from being boring. The week Dear You was released the "Fireman" video premiered on MTV's 120 Minutes as a "Buzz Band". It's pretty awesome seeing one of your favorite bands up there with the other more famous 90's alternative bands.

Track 4 " Acccident Prone" slows it up a bit but not too much. When the chorus kicks so do the distortion pedals.

Track 5 and 6 "Chemistry" and "Oyster" are two more full sounding and bouncy songs, both would not sound too out of place on 24-Hour Revenge Therapy, only Rob Cavallo's production really brings all the sound loud and clear, not muddled like on the Albini produced 24-Hour Revenge Therapy tracks. "Oyster", with it's positive and inspirational lyrics is definitely one of the highlights of the record.

Track 7 "Million" brings the tempo down a notch but retains the full loud sound the prior two tracks especially when the chorus kicks in.

The album starts raging again when Track 8 "Lurker II:Dark Son Of Night" begins. The song, never letting up for three and a half minutes, would not have been out of place one either of the first two records.

Track 9 "Jet Black" with it's obligatory (for Jawbreaker) Christopher Walken sample, is another slower one. This time a very welcome chance to catch your breath after the previous out of control track.

Track 10 "Bad Scene, Everyones Fault" is a fun song in the vein of 24-Hour Revenge Therapy's "Boxcar". While listening to the song you can almost picture Blake, bassist Chris Bauermeister and drummer Adam Pfahler sitting on a couch during a party and watching all the characters of the song interact with each other.

Track 11 " Stuttering (May 4th)" brings another fast and loud one it would prove to be the last one of Jawbreaker's career.

Track 12 "Basilica" slower and definitely darker. It also grows pretty loud and thunderous towards the end almost as if Jawbreaker knew it was the final hurrah and they were determined to destroy their instruments to insure it.

But there is one track left. Since their instruments were destroyed at the end of "Basilica", the acoustic instruments are pulled out for the not unlisted "Unlisted" track.

Overall I was pretty impressed. The murky and one dimensional production of 24-Hour Revenge Therapy was gone. In it's place was a warm and multi dimensional sounding album. Sure the vocals were a little crisper and a tad cleaner than on the other records but this was mostly a result of Blake's throat surgeries, not from trying to "Sell Out".

Even though  the record label thought the new record would keep the band together, after a short tour for Dear You, Jawbreaker decided to call it quits. Although no one ever wants their favorite band to break up I am always a little thankful they knew when it was time. Dear You was definitely a great album to go with.

17 years later Dear You is still in heavy rotation on my stereo. A little less than Bivuac and a lot more than 24-Hour Revenge Therapy. Unfun is still pretty untouchable.

On a side note: For a long while Jawbreaker's Dear You was very hard to find. DGC let the album go out of print and Adam Pfahler's Blackball Record would not re-release it until 2004. Sometime in the late 90's I was shopping at a local record store and decided to take a look through the 99 cent cut-out cassette bin. Inside I found about fifteen  sealed cassettes of Dear You.

 I bought them all and passed them out to all my friends who did not have a chance to buy the album before it went out of print. There was no need for any copy of this great and very hard to find album to waste away in a 99 cent bin.

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