25 December 2010

You're not punk, and I'm telling everyone.

Ten years ago, when I was sixteen, my brother gave me a CD for Christmas. It was Jawbreaker's 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, a purchase inspired no doubt by my incessant (but un-acted upon) declaration that I had to get more music by the band.
I first heard the opening track from Unfun--a well-known little number called "Want"--in '97 or '98 in a skate video we had. I didn't know anything about this band, much less that they had broken up at least a year before I'd ever hear them. But I specifically remember thinking something along the lines of, "I didn't know songs could be this good!"
I spent the next couple years getting more deeply acquainted with the world of punk rock, and while I would regularly watch that skate video (sometimes just to show that song to people or to hear it again myself), I wasn't able to find a copy of Unfun.
Anyway, in 2000, my brother surprised me with a copy of this album for Christmas, and I listened to it almost right away. Chris Bauermeister's thick, percussive bass playing in "The Boat Dreams From the Hill" had me hooked instantly. Blake Schwarzenbach's lyrics are punctuated by an honest introspection that lacked the crassness of those of some of the other bands I was listening to at the time. The music was punk rock (although Jawbreaker was never afraid to play slow), but the words were legitimate poetry. And I was just old enough to kind of understand it.
I enjoyed the critical perspectives taken in the songs, "Boxcar" and "Indictment." I could relate--especially as an adolescent who dealt with anxiety and mild depression--to some of the sentiments of despondence that adorn various parts of the record. I marveled at the provocative mood (not to mention the stunning instrumental conclusion) of "Condition Oakland." But at sixteen years old, I could never truly grasp the song's expression of distance and frustration.
When we were kids (even kids who were about five years late to the party), Jawbreaker just rocked, and they were different. That's why I liked them. I've held 24 Hour Revenge Therapy in my top five favorite albums of all time for the past decade, but as I've gotten older, I find myself appreciating the record for entirely new reasons.
I'm now the age that the guys in Jawbreaker were when they wrote many of the songs on this album. I was discussing this with a few friends recently. We all could say we loved this album since high school, but it wasn't until I got into my mid/late twenties that I really get an idea what a lot of these songs are saying.
On top of that, I've come to really appreciate the production quality of this album. The roughness is an important part of its honesty. It's an actual sonic documentation of moments in time, rather than a bunch of disingenuous studio magic like autotune, sample-replaced drums, and other shameful practices of total poseurs.
There remains a whole mess of excellent music out there, by both active and defunct bands. I continue to discover music that excites and interests me.
While I have a growing list of bands to investigate further, I look forward to another ten years with 24 Hour Revenge Therapy.
Thank you again, Garret, for my favorite album and one of the best gifts I've ever received.

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