Jawbreaker

Live 4/30/96
(Blackball Records)

On 1994's 24-Hour Revenge Therapy, Jawbreaker singer/songwriter Blake Schwarzenbach spat out the righteous truth against his peers of the time: "You're not punk and I'm tellin' everyone/Save your breath, I never was one."

In one backhanded bitch slap, Schwarzenbach knocked the Sid Vicious-inspired snarls off a generation of "punk-rockers" who, mimicking their favorite Offspring and Green Day videos, were easy to spot as they all stood in line at the local Walgreens with hair products in hand. What's more, Schwarzenbach thoughtfully paid tribute to the integrity of his P.R. forefathers, acknowledging that his coming of age was, without regret, nearly two decades too late. A few power chords later, Schwarzenbach followed through and counted down: "One, two, three, four/Who's punk?/What's the score?"

For Jawbreaker fans, the answer was clear: Jawbreaker, a million; all others, 0.

The trio's stance against all things obvious was so endearing, so intimate, that the band was immediately wrapped up by a throng of faithful who were thrilled at the authenticity they had found: tough music on the outside, soft as a stack of rose petals on the inside. When Geffen signed the band in 1995 to big dollars and big hopes, Schwarzenbach teased, "I'm not selling out. I'm buying in."

The result was Dear You, an overproduced, far-reaching product that contained some of the most generic, get-it?-get-it? songs ever written. The album opened with "Save Your Generation," a post-Kurt-Cobain-suicide keep-your-chin-up ballad wherein Schwarzenbach lectures twenty-somethings, "We're killing each other by sleeping in."

Dear You might have killed the band, but two of its songs appear on Live 4/30/96,a nine-song live album released three years after the group's demise. ("Save Your Generation" makes the cut, implying that Schwarzenbach was, and still is, serious about its merits.) Even with three previously unreleased tracks, the live album is no gift for aged fans. The new tracks are skimpy and dated, and they quickly get filed under Nothing Special. Luckily, "Ashtray Monument," the band's artfully scripted ode to divorce, and "Parabola," the self-indulgent but crowd-pleasing jam from 1993's Bivouac, give the CD reason for being.

Schwarzenbach's voice is so ready-made for the live recording, and the trio plays in such an uncharacteristically rigid manner, one can almost hear the bandmembers thinking, "Don't fuck up, don't fuck up." A few misplaced catcalls are the only indication that the album takes place inside San Francisco's Warfield Theatre and not Schwarzenbach's garage. The recording is such a lazy, minimalist effort -- right down to the absence of liner notes and the heavy-handed negative space on the cover -- it's impossible to believe the band released the album with any hope of luring new fans who might inspire a comeback. No, the only reason Jawbreaker released Live 4/30/96 was to cash in, a goal that's being financed by the retarded longings of old fans.

Schwarzenbach was right all along. He never was one.

 
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