Career In Brief: Jawbox


Jawbox were a DC area melodic post-punk act led by J. Robbins. Beginning as a three piece in 89/90, the band toured under the radar during the underground music revolution of 91/92. When the band added Bill Barbot as a second vocalist and guitar player around the same time, they laid the groundwork for the resounding success that was Novelty. 1994’s For Your Own Special Sweetheart found them on a major label, with the execs probably trying to position them to be the "next Nirvana", but FYOSS, while the band’s masterpiece in its own right (and one of the greatest post-punk records ever), didn’t achieve the success they and others were hoping. With that, they tried to smooth away the rough edges on their next eponymous album, but all that managed to do for them was disappoint the critics. They called it quits around 1997, and released a collection of rarities in 1998. Barbot and Robbins went on to form Burning Airlines, which released 2 excellent (if less melodic and more art-punk) LP’s around the turn of the century. Bassist Kim Coletta and drummer Zach Barocas both went on to non-musical careers in other fields.


Jawbox EP (1990) – [B]: Meat and potatoes post-hardcore. ["Tools & Chrome"] (my review)

Grippe (1991) – [C+]: Undercooked, but signs of promise. ["Freezerburn"] (my review)

Novelty (1992) – [A]: Who knew hardcore could be so beautiful? ["Static"] (my review)

For Your Own Special Sweetheart (1994) – [A]: A masterpiece, a brilliant set of tunes. ["Cooling Card"] (my review)

Jawbox (1996) – [B-]: Band leans radio-friendly, gets ignored, breaks up. Not bad though. ["Iodine"] (my review)

My Scrapbook Of Fatal Accidents (1998): There are some highlights here for sure (the Peel session, although it’s sort of a sub-par Peel session, with nothing new for the fan), their cover of Tar’s "Static", and rarities like "Apollo Amateur" and "Under Glass." Hey, there’s even a cover of The Cure’s "Meathook", which would be great in just about any form. You could even make a case for their cover of the R.E.M. obscurity "Low." Overall though, this is exactly what it’s supposed to be and nothing more, a clearing of the archives for a short-lived great.


The two tracks from the "Tongues" single (now found at the end of most versions of Novelty) should not be missed, especially the title track, as it features Bill Barbot on lead vocals and is one of the best things the band recorded. Also, the 3 tracks from the Savory + 3 EP ("68", "Lil Shaver", and "Sound on Sound") are all keepers, but esp. "68". You can find them now on the FYOSS reissue. Also, their cover of Tori Amos’ “Cornflake Girl” is cool, regardless of what Amos’ own fans will probably tell you.


“Savory” official video
”FF=66” live on Jimmy Fallon (reunited in 2009)

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