The Walking Rock Alphabet: J
I’ve been a big faildozer this week, as I haven’t made it out of the house since Thursday. It’s my own fault, although it’s been a busy week. The temps have been mild, although the wind took away any desire to wander around the neighborhood yesterday.
It’s not like I wasn’t looking forward to my next musical selection. I had made the decision to listen to some Jawbreaker many days before I came to the “J” section. In fact, I did make it out of the house on Tuesday for a few off their 24 Hour Revenge Therapy album before an important phone call sent me rushing back home.
I had picked that album because I mistakenly believed it was the record they were promoting when I saw them in 1993. The setting was Chicago, where I was spending ten days on an excruciatingly boring extended work trip. Musically, though, it was the perfect time to be there, as a glance at the calendar saw concerts by Paul Westerberg and Nirvana. Oh yeah, there was another show, as James Young from Styx had invited me to see his solo project. Some day I’ll babble about that.
You probably know my thoughts about the Westerberg show, so we’ll move on to the Nirvana gig. This was their final tour, promoting In Utero, and is now semi-famous for being the setting of the only live performance of “You Know You’re Right” (an outtake which ended up on a 2002 greatest hits compilation).
This was my first, and only, time seeing Nirvana, who was as amazing as expected. They played pretty much everything I wanted them to play, and skipped “Teen Spirit”. The final encore culminated in the “Endless, Nameless” bonus track from Nevermind, and Kurt Cobain disappeared after stage-diving into the crowd.
Enough of Nirvana, though. We’re here today to talk about Jawbreaker, who opened the three-band show (Mudhoney was between them and Nirvana). I wasn’t real familiar with the trio at the time, although we sold their CD’s, 7” singles, and other merchandise at Ernie’s. I was blown away, though, by their Clash-meets-Undertones poppish punk sound, though, and knew the first thing I’d do when I finally made it back home was to invest in their catalog.
I could have done just that after the gig, though. When we finally realized that Cobain wasn’t going to make it back from the audience onto the stage for another song, we tredged out of the Aragon Theatre. Right outside the front of the building, the members of Jawbreaker were selling their merchandise from the trunk of their vehicle. Apparently, the big major label stars didn’t give the band any room at the merch table (or maybe they wanted too much of their proceeds). I declined their offers, though, telling them that we actually sold their material in our Sioux Falls store.
As I stated before, I believed that this tour was in support of 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, but their most recent album before the Nirvana gig was actually 1992’s Bivouac. For today’s walk, however, I chose their fourth and final album, 1996’s Dear You. Although the album is their major label debut, the cleaner vocals from singer/guitarist Blake Schwarzenback isn’t actually because of a higher recording budget (although the overall recording is definitely cleaner than their other releases). Schwarzenback underwent vocal chord surgery a few months before the album was released, and obviously it was successful.
Dear You wasn’t as successful as DGC Records believed it would be, but it’s not because of the material. The album fits in well with the rest of their catalog, and songs like “Save Your Generation” and “I Love You So Much It’s Killing Us Both” is among their greatest songs. The industry that had blown open with the surprise success of band like Nirvana had moved on, though, and punk and grunge were quickly being replaced by pre-fab boy bands and overproduced corporate rock.
As stated before, Jawbreaker broke up after this release. Members went on to various other projects, highlighted by Schwarzenbach’s Jets to Brazil...which would have been another inspired choice for today’s brisk pace through the mean streets of suburban Sioux Falls.