Saturday, May 02, 2009

JAWBOX: (1994) For Your Own Special Sweetheart (Atlantic/WEA)

"For Your Own Special Sweetheart" is one of the great rock albums of the 90s. Their's was a noisy, often dissonant, angular sound, firmly rooted in the post-Fugazi D.C. sound, which, of course, means hardcore energy, post-punk structures, and sheets upon sheets of guitar. So what's the big deal? Songs, baby: the ability to write memorable tunes. Jawbox had melodies that traversed the emotional spectrum, but always tinged with elements of bittersweet, melancholy dissonance. The haunting overtones of Sonic Youth, at their most transcendent, are channeled into high-energy, rhythmically dynamic tunes. This mixture of the subtle and the muscular carries over into the vocals, where thoughtful, allusive lyrics are belted out with conviction and power. By the time this album was recorded, Jawbox were a tight, kinetic force, and the pristine recording successfully captures their unstoppable live energy.
It's too bad this album didn't sell better. In a decade when scores indie rock bands, in the wake of Nirvana's success, were being signed to major labels, Jawbox were particularly unfortunate victims of the indie snobbery that caused many of these endeavors to tank. They were a band that were able to succesfully combine musical professionalism with noisy rock of the post-punk lineage, and there's little doubt that had they chosen to continue into this century, they could have provided a valuable example for younger bands, showing that accessibile guitar rock need not be retro.-- Phil Avetxori

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