Tonight from 7pm to 9pm we get to walk a mile (or many decades) in Blake Schwarzenbach's shoes. He has kindly supplied me with two hours of his musical influences; sharing with us the building blocks of his style and inspirations from his younger years until today.For those of you…and I know there are many….who consider themselves to be experts on all things related to Jawbreaker and Blake, I think there will be quite a few surprises among the set tonight and if a personal mix by the artists isn't enough for you, I will be posting his notes that go along with most of his song choices here.
A big thank you to Blake for taking the time to supply me with the ammo for tonight's show. It has been a treat to hear your story through the art of others.
Johnny Too Bad 3:05 The Slickers The Harder They Come (Deluxe Edition)-(“The Harder They Come” soundtrack got a lot of play in my childhood home in Berkeley. I still have my parents’ LP – my oldest record – and I grew up alongside this song and a lot of the Jimmy Cliff songs from that album.) I have always been struck by the realism of this song – “a pistol in your waist, a ratchet in your waist”; the tragic empathy of the third party singer (“there will be no rock”) – the singer admires the guy and also knows that he must go down. It’s a pretty sophisticated position to take.
Found a Job 5:02 Talking Heads The Best of Talking Heads – Hard to pick any one song, but I think this is fairly representative of the Heads ability to begin a song mid-party and keep the trance going. How many other artists are as committed to dance and ideas in equal measure?
Perfecting Loneliness 5:47 Jets to Brazil Perfecting Loneliness – “Sugar and lightbulbs” was a mantra for what’s always missing in an empty home when I wrote this. I worked out from that stark image – of someone always needing what they don’t really need; very cold and tactical – and ended up with the song.
Caring Line 3:34 Government Issue Complete History, Volume Two -Somewhere between the Damned and Cheap Trick – the album “You” was so influential on my playing and thinking about chords and deadpan vocals. This band got seriously overlooked in people’s thinking about “DC music” – perhaps it was just too rock and roll for its time – but it holds up as a really incredible rock album with dark themes.
For Want Of 3:11 Rites Of Spring- Rites Of Spring [Bonus Tracks] -There’s a lot of theater in this band – not disingenuous, but there is a kind of persona. That’s important – you can be sincerely someone else. The dramatic highs and lows are so visceral that it becomes operatic – and I think sometimes people overlook the fact that to do that takes a sophisticated, if raw, kind of “acting.”
Then She Remembers 4:08 The Dream Syndicate The Days Of Wine And Roses – One of the best, most exasperating, live bands. They opened for the Psychedelic Furs in Santa Monica and did about twenty minutes of shrill, hateful feedback – I bought their record the next day, just to try to understand. “The Days of Wine and Roses” and their green EP are perfect – to think “big” in this way, in terms of imagination and creating a whole sonic realm, but in a close garage setting, was really visionary at this time in Los Angeles.
Sail Away 2:53 Randy Newman – Sail Away -Two sides of the same coin, one snarling, the other doting – but at the center is a gritty realism and wounded humor that belie a serious ethical position. I grew up with this album as well, and it took years for the content to actually sink in – I mean, you knew something was wrong; it’s so sophisticated and detached; but the full implications of the lyrics took some growing up.
The Old Revolution 4:47 Leonard Cohen Songs From A Room – He never forfeits precision for grandiosity, yet all his songs are massive. This is an affront to any lyricist, a throwing down of the gauntlet; but also an encouragement to be more exact and honest. I think any resistance to Leonard Cohen (as “gloomy” or “dour”) reflects a failure to apprehend his humor and loving heart. Once you get in touch with the equanimity and compassion in his songs, the so-called “brutal truth” becomes a kind of grand human solidarity. The flinty, no bullshit aspects of Buddhism are here in a very powerful way. If someone asked you what Zen was, you could do worse than saying it’s the notion that “even damnation is poisoned with rainbows.” (And to get that, you have to hear the “disappointment” in such a statement.)
Pineola 4:11 Lucinda Williams Sweet Old World – I love this song because it’s “badass” in all the ways we’ve come to hate in so-called country music. Nowadays this kind of groove would be used to sell nationalism or quasi-libertarian, Tea Party outrage – but she takes it in the opposite direction. It’s about being numb, being incapable of any adequate response to tragedy (which is shock, trauma, what have you – in other words, entirely adequate because it is all that is possible.) Therefore, the rocking-ness of the music grows in disparity to the situation, like a kind of drug experience, which creates a really cool, divided space and subject.
Black Boys on Mopeds 3:53 Sinead O'Connor – Sinead O'Connor – The whole album, really, but when she sings, “If they hated me they will hate you,” then I think we all have a decision to make: Do you want new wave or do you want the truth? I would say the song “Bivouac” was really my attempt to write a Sinead song — to enter the realm of breathy drama — and I had to listen to a lot of Sinead O’Connor to let go like that.
Sea Anemone 5:20 Jets to Brazil Orange Rhyming Dictionary
God's Children 3:20 The Kinks Percy – It’s hard to cry during a Kinks song because they are so astute and tart that they defy sentimentality. This song forgoes a lot of the standard irony. That’s not a repudiation of said irony; in fact I think it underwrites it in a very rich way. In any event, a really lovely song.
Sound On Sound 2:36 Big Boys Wreck Collection- I think if there’s a theme to all these selections it’s “people doing things they shouldn’t.” So, a queer punk-funk band from Texas – already an outrageous proposition – does a gothy, meditative art song.
Plateau 2:22 Meat Puppets Meat Puppets II -This was one of my favorite albums in high school (I put the lyrics on my yearbook page) and I think the massive finale was really influential on the way Jawbreaker constructed instrumental parts. A lot of the SST bands seemed to suggest that there were no rules, no genres, and the Meat Puppets were pretty unclassifiable.
Swallow That 6:12 Superchunk On the Mouth (Remastered) -I used to listen to this song over and over and over – drunk, writing on my floor. I’m pretty sure the Jawbreaker song “In Sadding Around” grew out of my obsession with this song. This was like a songwriting clinic for me – the way it grows steadily for the whole song, the way the lyrics wind around and within the music, and while it is basically one progression it manages to have all this development, achieving a kind of wary climax at the end.
Jet Black 5:14 Jawbreaker Dear You -I wrote this on a 4-track with a drum machine and kind of didn’t imagine it being a large rock song; rather a very up close (re: uncomfortable) bit of Goth journaling. When we finally recorded it I remember Rob Cavallo (who produced “Dear You”) telling me, “I don’t believe you!” when I was singing the choruses. He was really riding me and I sensed that he was right but I was pissed. So, in this fashion, I got worked up into an angry enough state to say/sing it with actual conviction.
She Is Mine 3:52 The Psychedelic Furs All Of This And Nothing – It’s still so great, even with the saxophone. The band really crystallized on this album and I think this song is a perfect example of their ability to blend sadness, resentment, tenderness and disgust. The Furs put “detachment” in a very interesting space – because they’re always cool, rock and roll, wearing sunglasses and looking bored; but they’re also insanely romantic and sad. That combination was a real innovation and one that still sounds totally organic.
Scenic Pastures 3:23 Archers of Loaf Vitus Tinnitus – While it became commonplace to put “Web in Front” on mix tapes, when “Icky Mettle” came out it was met with a lot of hostility (at least in the Bay Area). Most people that I knew dismissed the band as corporate or some such nonsense and wouldn’t take them seriously. Of course they were entirely wrong. In a way it was good because I think it led to the contemplative grandeur of “White Trash Heroes” and Crooked Fingers later on – the drive to do new things and find starker and purer modes of expression persists to this day.
Telling Them 3:12 Social Distortion Mommy's Little Monster – The whole album was my high school – you didn’t even think, you just put this album on in the morning and took whatever came your way. It’s so cinematic – this song makes me think of pulling up to the Hollywood Palladium where there is a riot in progress. The first full-on punk rock show I went to, in 9th grade, was TSOL, Adolescents, Social Distortion, Wasted Youth, Youth Brigade, a whole bunch of bands, and it was just huge. There were lots of grown-ups there – like freaky, older Hollywood types, and hippies, and art damage people. It was really wild, not at all homogenous. Some dude rolled into the show on roller skates – looking very high, with rainbow suspenders and super long hair – and he got the shit beat out of him. I saw him laid out in front of the club with a lot of blood on his face and people were still yelling at him, like, “Go home you fucking hippie.” It was amazing – the sheer excitement of the event, the possibility of getting seriously hurt, and the mixture of joy and terror.
Condition Oakland 5:18 Jawbreaker 24 Hour Revenge Therapy
Arabian Knights 3:09 Siouxsie & The Banshees The Best Of Siouxsie And The Banshees- Is it Paul Bowles? Is it molten feminism or facile Islamophobia? I think it’s more of a post-colonial obsession with “the East” in what has to be understood as the sunny side of Orientalism (that is, the many colorful Western readings of the East: often quite beautiful and more about themselves than any foreign subject.) “JuJu” was the album that the cool girls listened to at my high school, so I listened to it obsessively, I think in an attempt to be closer to them, but it didn’t hurt that it’s just an amazing record full of imagination, beautiful arrangements, and some of the most satisfying drumming since Stewart Copeland.
Orange Rhyming Dictionary 5:48 Jets to Brazil Four Cornered Night -Maybe a secret wound; I thought this song (and album) got pretty poor treatment in the critical realm. This was one of the most satisfying songs to play live – heavy and dirty and transcendent. It’s about converting destitution into art – maybe the theme of all my songs – but there’s a kind of grandeur to this as a band that I still really like.
Leave Me Alone 4:42 New Order Power, Corruption & Lies [Collector's Edition] – To me New Order was always about healing – the intensely lush and saturated strings, the major melodies and simple guitar lines. To come out from under the shadow of Joy Division with something as unabashedly “pretty” as this was a really beautiful concession to life. I think that in the way Joy Division was about really visceral alienation, New Order kind of perversely tapped into the pleasures of isolation – almost fetishized it. But it became such social music – club music, relationship music, mix-tape music, that it kind of transcended its own deadliness
Too Small To Fail 3:46 Forgetters – Forgetters
Speedway 4:30 Morrissey Vauxhall And I -I’ve always responded to the really epic Morrissey songs – the openers and closers, the twelve-minute songs, the audacious ones. “Speedway” was my first real encounter with Morrissey – I missed the Smiths because I was ignorant – and I can never tire of it. (I would put “The teachers are afraid of the pupils” but since it’s a broadcast – you know – I’ll spare your listeners. But, as an anecdote, Jets to Brazil played this song before and after we played shows and we would [or I would] always sing, “To be finished would be a relief…” with a kind of vatic knowingness.)
Hot Freaks 1:43 Guided By Voices The Best Of Guided By Voices: Human Amusements At Hourly Rat – Talk about freedom – the intuitive nature of Robert Pollards lyrics, the sheer delight of daisy-chaining words into a dazzling train of cognition, and the stunning sleaziness of this particular track. They have so many deserved “hits,” but this song really stands out for me as a reward for going out on a limb.
Schizophrenia 4:38 Sonic Youth Sister – I’m still trying not to steal this song every time I play guitar! You know what I love about this album, and band? It’s so logical, even though it functions outside the realm of conventional composition. They’re very narrative – all the songs are stories, and the noise tells a story too – and I really responded to this. They jam but they don’t waste your time.
Nervous Energy 4:50 Unwound Fake Train – They never stopped evolving, and I think they really understood what was great about hardcore and somehow managed to draw it into something completely different, to remove all the lame associations of what hardcore had become and to produce this thing of real chaotic artistry. We played with them, knew them, and it was still a wonder to behold each time.
Bivouac 10:07 Jawbreaker Bivouac – I remember debuting this song at Muddy Waters coffee house in the Mission. At this point it was anything but given – in fact it felt potentially like folk rock suicide, to try to get all sensitive in a nine or ten minute format. But what emerged was power. It felt like a kind of deliverance, where one can really put themselves into a public space and be met by understanding.
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October 14th, 2010
Posted In: Music Shows