After you've been locked into a groove for a long time, it's never easy when things have run their course and the time comes to leave it all behind and move on. However, history offers us countless encouraging examples of bitter ends becoming sweet new beginnings, one notable example of which involves the breakup of Blake Schwarzenbach's revered punk band Jawbreaker and his re-emergence with Jets to Brazil.
With Schwarzenbach teaming up with the likes of Chris Daly (ex-Texas Is the Reason), was it even possible for his new music to do anything but rule? I'm sure there are some instances of musical collaborations that looked better on paper than they actually were, but none spring to mind. Suffice it to say that the new project did not disappoint. To hear their 1998 debut Orange Rhyming Dictionary once is to love it forever. From the unforgettable feedback squeal and huge riffs that open its first track "Crown of the Valley" to the touching "Sweet Avenue" (one of the all-time greatest punk-related love songs) at its end, it's just the perfect album.
There's still a healthy amound of energy and crunch, but it's very much a grown-up indie rock album. The alienation and uncertainty at the core of the brilliant "Sea Anemone" should resonate with anyone with a life in a state of flux, maybe those of you about to graduate from high school or college in the coming weeks and unsure of your place in the world, feeling like, as Schwarzenbach puts it, "a turtle on its back in the desert sea." His nagging sense of not going anywhere in spite of efforts to pull himself from the quagmire run through "I Typed for Miles", a song that evokes Nirvana in an "In My Teeth" sort of way. It's not all down in the dumps, though-- redemption comes with "Sweet Avenue", the type of song that many of us can probably only wish we could apply to our own lives, or at least hope to some day. With macho posturing the norm in rock music, tunes with the vulnerability of "Sweet Avenue" are rare, and with good reason, as they can come off as humorously emasculating. Schwarzenbach's balance of heartfelt honesty and ruggedness rings pitch-perfect, and the result is truly one-of-a-kind.
With such an astounding record under their belts, you'd forgive Jets to Brazil for not catching lightning in a bottle again, which is good, because in truth, they never truly did. 2000's Four Cornered Night and 2002's Perfecting Loneliness are solid and recommended albums, but not nearly as essential as the debut. And since you're already bored with my rambling, I won't get into the nitty-gritty, just encourage you to check them out, too, if you haven't already. Then, the next time AP.net reports that one of your favorite bands has decided to part ways, you can think of JTB and replace that dewy-eyed regret with optimism at what might rise from the ashes.
Good times...I posted a line from Sea Anemone (not even one of the blatantly suicidal ones) as my status on facebook a few months ago...
My girlfriend called worrying I was breaking up with her, killing myself, or both lol. Just a great song from a great band.
"2000's Four Cornered Night and 2002's Perfecting Loneliness are solid and recommended albums, but not nearly as essential as the debut."
wait what? Orange Rhyming Dictionary is fantastic, but I wouldn't make that claim. Perfecting Loneliness is so polished as a record, each song seems so wonderfully planned out as if it were to be a discussion on beginnings and (but mostly) endings of relationships with people and yourself. That release culminated everything that Four Cornered Night and Orange Rhyming wanted to accomplish. JTB have always been about that album for me, it was a "perfect" way for them to fall out, and a memory of my youth.