Quick Review (LP): Novelty by Jawbox

jawbox novelty Jawbox
Dischord; 1992

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “Cutoff”, “Static”, “Tracking”, “Channel 3”

Bill Barbot joins the crew, and greatness is unleashed. The progression from Grippe to Novelty is without a doubt one of the most remarkable in the history of rock and roll. Between albums, the band learned how to harness massive feedback walls, wrote a killer set of songs, and slowed things down just enough to nail you in the gut. “Cutoff” is so good that they re-wrote it on their 4th LP, “Channel 3” leans heavily on the muscular pop that was starting to rock the mainstream, and “Static” is quite simply an amazing tune. The dueling vocal attack of Robbins and Barbot is something to behold as well, creating a sort of hypnotic effect that’ll suck you in. But it’s the emotional arc of the songwriting that makes Novelty such a giant leap. The highs are galactic, the lows are subterranean. Novelty is one massive moment of greatness, one of the greatest post-hardcore records of all time, and deserves to be cherished by you.

AMG review
Wikipedia article
Punk Mecca review

Quick Review (LP): Grippe by Jawbox

jawbox grippe Jawbox
Dischord; 1991

My Rating: C+

Best Tracks: “Freezerburn”, “Impossible Figure”, “Consolation Prize”, “Bullet Park”

Grippe starts out promising enough with the double-header “Freezerburn” and “Impossible Figure”, but quickly slips into mediocrity, as if the band tried to pump out its debut LP before they’d really fleshed out a full set of truly worthy songs. The riffs are all a little too chunky and the production sounds altogether amateurish. It’s clear the band hadn’t quite identified that which would become its sound. While this initial misstep is easily forgotten due to the quality of the band’s later output, it is revealing to see where the band was prior to the addition of Bill Barbot. There’s little sense of the technocratic/technophobic ambiance they would embrace on later recordings, although about half the songs hint at the latent melodic ability of J. Robbins. Verdict: this suffers from the “what is this thing called post-hardcore supposed to sound like?” syndrome that seemed so common for DC bands in the late 80’s, so don’t dive into this record expecting something great. The place to start is Novelty, and then on through to Sweetheart and the last one. After you’ve been through the 3 latter LP’s, drop by and give this one a quick look, if only to catch a glimpse of the ‘box’s humble beginnings.

AMG review
Wikipedia article