Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Jawbreaker – “Eye-5” from Unfun (Shredder)


The thing about Jawbreaker is that there are so many things to say about Jawbreaker. There’s that old saying that no matter how good you are at something, there’s always someone better, and I think that probably applies to Jawbreaker fandom. There are rabid Jawbreaker fans out there, many of whom would likely break my hands and rip my tongue out of my mouth upon hearing me state that I got into Jawbreaker via their swan song, Dear You, then worked backwards to 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, and have remained more or less indifferent (with some exceptions) to the rest of the catalog ever since.

It’s not a position I can defend to myself, as it turns out, and so I’m grateful to myself for my own blog which has caused me to give some close examination to some things that deserve that level of scrutiny.

So, for scrutiny’s sake, let’s start here. Jawbreaker formed in 1986. Depending on how you’ve got your sundial calibrated, punk music was somewhere between ten and twentyish years old at in 1986. Shit, (and again, it depends on who you ask), rock and roll music wasn’t much more than thirty or forty years old at that point. To put that in some serious context, next year will be thirty years since Jawbreaker formed.

This is probably more a commentary on just how explosive and ever-changing culture was in the latter part of the last century, and less about Jawbreaker, so let’s bring it back. Unfun was their debut album, released in 1990. For me, that’s kind of a weird time for punk music, existing as it does between a lot of things (youth crew hardcore, the evolution of DC hardcore into what would be called “emo”, the explosion of pop-punk, etc.). Looking at that list of things, though, maybe that was the perfect time for Jawbreaker to really emerge, especially given that they draw from so many diverse influences (like that entire list and more).

“Eye-5” works as an excellent example of this: it begins with the sound of a car turning over, followed by a super syncopated, almost wonky rhythm that brings to mind that old Joy Division/Warsaw song “Warsaw” (famously covered by the Swing Kids at a time after Unfun came out, but I digress). As the song continues, it evolves into something of a microcosm of who Jawbreaker would become as a band. Spoken parts? Check. Infectious melodies sung roughly? Yup. Evocative samples? Also yes. In fact, the song moves into some territory near the end that’s not really so different from the best parts of Dear You, kind of a pensive sprawl characterized by, yes, emotion, but also by a slowing down that is not accompanied by any kind of a letting up.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss the lyrics, a sort of stream-of-consciousness diary of an anti-hero careening down the interstate. He is unlikeable, murderous, anti-woman, and completely and utterly humanized by the gifted lyricist that is Blake Schwarzenbach, and all of this in a day before this became the currency of the kind of serial dramas HBO and others have leveraged to make television interesting again (see: DeadwoodHouse of CardsBoardwalk Empire, etc.).

So yes, all these years later, my appreciation for Jawbreaker continues to increase. Please send “When it Pains it Roars” shirts, size men’s L/XL, to Shuffler HQ at your earliest convenience.


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