Jawbreaker – Dear You

Dear You

Back in the early 1990s, when their musical peers like Green Day, Face To Face, Samiam, and Jawbox were signing to major labels, the artists in Jawbreaker always said that they were going to stay indie. By the mid-90s however, when Geffen Records dangled the carrot in front of them (in the form of a million-dollar, three-album deal) Jawbreaker went for it.

Now with money for an actual recording budget, these musicians would be able to afford to take time to record an album over the course of eight weeks as opposed to the hours and days that their three previous albums had been recorded in. The result was Dear You, an album that alienated much of Jawbreaker’s core following by jettisoning the band’s old, rough studio sound and using a newer, slicker (Rob Cavallo-produced) sound, massive guitars, subdued bass, and the vocals that lacked singer Blake Schwarzenbach’s trademark rasp.

Short story made shorter: the fans were pissed, the album tanked, the band broke up, and Dear You quickly went out of print. It was seen as a major label sellout failure. However, throughout the years, the album grew in stature through the magic of the Internet and burned CD-R copies, influencing a new generation of kids – ones that weren’t turned off by the high production values. This album was one of the key documents for what has become the cash cow that is emo.

Surprisingly, Geffen didn’t cash in and re-release the album; instead copies were fetching up to $70 on eBay. Recently, drummer Adam Pfahler got the rights back to Dear You and re-released it on his label with five extra tracks. Filled with ambivalent moodiness and guitar-heavy melodicism, Dear You sports melodies richer and catchier then most of today’s emo fare. While it took the album seven years to find an audience, it’s well worth the wait.

Geffen originally released “Fireman” as the first single (which never caught on). The song is a noisy/catchy revenge fantasy spiced with a touch of whimsy. “Chemistry” and “Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault” both deal with love (mostly the lack thereof). Schwarzenbach’s effective use of wordplay belies the deep current of frustration and loss couched in Dear You‘s gothic love songs and tales of 20-something drift.

The bonus tracks do nothing to add to the album; for example the version of “Boxcar” on 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is far superior to the one here, but it should keep the completionists happy. Unfortunately this sound has been co-opted into a generation of lonely teenager whine music.