Tag Archives: Post Hardcore

Album Review: Jawbox – “Jawbox” (1996)

26 Mar

Jawbox’s eponymous last album is a blazing exploration of the sonic landscape that comes with Selling Out to the Man circa 1996. ‘Jawbox’ finds the band ditching their ruthlessly abrasive brand of DC hardcore for a series of startlingly MTV-able post-punk tracks that sound more ‘Breed’ than Big Black. The change could be chalked up to Atlantic Records’ less-than-punk motives, but, more likely, as lead vocalist J. Robbins notices in ‘Spoiler,’ “vindication [wasn’t] what it used to be” for a band that, after three studio albums and five years of touring, were finally fully realized (with a record, aptly, titled after themselves) – but not through hardcore punk. ‘Jawbox’ is an inescapably commercial record with an inescapably commercial sound.

Losing the harsh discord that characterized iconic-if-messy debut ‘Grippe’ and critically acclaimed sophomore record ‘Novelty’ may have cut down on the adrenal force that only cacophonously ugly guitar riffs and rumbling bass lines can really deliver, but Jawbox is by no means any less articulate on this post-punk swan song. The cryptically caustic lyrics on the album are odes to drug abuse and dysfunction that craft a harrowingly beautiful alternate universe for themselves through unending tangles of metaphors in songs like “Iodine” and “Mirrorful.” Matching these lyrics with dark, seething music that taps eerily at spider-webs of verses and plunges into radiantly catchy choruses with a startling force makes “Jawbox” one of the best records to come out of the DC scene of the 1990s – even if it indicates a movement away from the scene’s hardcore roots and into more commercial territory.

Retrospective: Scratch Acid – ‘The Greatest Gift’ (1991)

10 Mar

Scratch Acid – ‘The Greatest Gift’

(Touch and Go Records)

This lesser known classic is (yes I know this is patronising) not for the faint hearted. Scratch Acid – ‘The Greatest Gift’, released in 1991 consists of a mega twenty eight songs! It’s a compilation of three previous albums from the Austin trio (1982-1987) who, in true and unfortunate punk rock fashion were ripped off by there then record labels.

Although, the guys separated and went on to form numerous other bands, notably The Jesus Lizard, and deservedly experienced a sip or two of that long sought after elixir known as success. To the average you and me this means ‘BEING DULY PAID FOR THE HOURS PUT IN’, and yet it is arguably Scratch Acid who stand alone and in most cases rise above.

Along with other bands such as the Butthole Surfers and Big Black, Scratch Acid contributed in giving unholy birth to that early-to-mid-eighties U.S. scene where a rather more extreme alternative was offered to an already alternative genre. In tracks such as ‘She Said’, ‘Lay Screaming’, ‘Owners Lament’ and ‘Crazy Dan’  themes of rape, murder and insanity are not just touched upon but delved into with David Yow (vocals) and his debauched howling, coming through the speakers like that of a condemned opera singer clinging to the last remnants of what was once a soul.

This is built from the foundations of a solid bass/drums combo and some of the most unsettling, eerie guitar playing ever to be strung which all serves to present an Audio Nasty experience of the most depraved and therefore highest quality.  Think of being ten years old again and watching Texas Chain Saw Massacre for the first time after a day of Tom and Jerry, intrigued? You should be.