Quick Review (LP): Jawbox by Jawbox

Atlantic/TAG; 1996

My Rating: B-

Best Tracks: “Mirrorful”, “Iodine”, “Spoiler”, “Absenter”, “Desert Sea”

There are at least 5 great tracks on Jawbox‘s self-titled fourth album (see above). Unfortunately, the rest of the album’s songs come off like throwbacks to their early days (Grippe-era) or FM radio pandering, and the production is so sexed up and snappy that it robs Jawbox of the mighty noise that made For Your Own Special Sweetheart such a triumph. Just listen. Barocas’ drums sounds like firecrackers rather than bombs awash with sonic salvation, and Kimmy’s bass sounds tinny and flat, like something off of a Limp Bizkit record (no disrespect to her actual playing). And the songs? Take “Chinese Fork Tie” for example. The big rock chorus is awkward and goofy, especially executed by a band with as much substance as Jawbox. And the slick, cherubic background vocals on “Excandescent”? When you’ve got the vocal chemistry that Robbins and Barbot share, why go that route? In hindsight, I’m not sure if the band was trying to deliver a pop smash, trying a new direction, or something else. The eponymous album title this late in a career is usually not a good sign, and I think it’s an indicator of why this album fell flat as a whole, and also perhaps why it was their last. Not withstanding the handful of truly brilliant tracks, it looks like the inspiration was running dry.

AMG review
My review of For Your Own Special Sweetheart
My review of Novelty
My review of Grippe
My review of their first EP
”Mirrorful” music theory write-up from the Hooks blog

Quick Review (LP): For Your Own Special Sweetheart by Jawbox

jawbox for your own special sweetheart Jawbox
For Your Own Special Sweetheart
Atlantic; 1994

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “FF=66”, “Savory”, “Breathe”, “Cooling Card”, “Whitney Walks”

The only problem with Novelty was the production. All I can say is that it sounded a bit off, sort of glossed and imbalanced. The drums, for example, popped with too much pizzazz. The guitars came off a little too metal. All that has been remedied on For Your Own Special Sweetheart, apparently by the efforts of Fugazi-standby producer Ted Nicely. With his assistance, the band made the defining Jawbox experience, an album that captures the band in all of their gorgeous, hyper-melodic dissonance. Everything – and I mean everything – about this record brims with sonic glory. The choruses are fist-pumpingly mighty, the drums and bass are pummeling and full, and the guitars are explosive and razor-sharp. The only drawback, and it is minor, is that the best material seems to be packed into the record’s first half. Still, it could just be that tracks 1-6 are so strong that nothing could compare, and to be honest, “Chicago Piano”, “U-Trau”, and “Whitney Walks” are all pretty amazing anyway. There’s no doubt in my mind that Sweetheart is one of the great post-punk records, and certainly Jawbox’s masterpiece. It’s a record that deserves to be listened to on full blast, so pop it in, crank it up, and savor every second.

Wikipedia article
Pitchfork review
AMG review