You're not punk and I'm telling everyone

Jawbreaker playing at Riot Fest

I just got home from seeing the Jawbreaker documentary, and first off, it was incredible.

I mean, music movies are my jam, the same way some folks like Lifetime movies or all the albums Jade Tree put out in the late 90’s. Know me long enough and I’ll try to make you watch the Last Waltz, or Fear of a Black Hat, or Meeting People is Easy.

But an interesting thing about this movie is that it reflected my relationship with the band: I don’t know a ton of their songs, but the ones I know gut me. Choke me up. I mean:

This is a story you won’t tell the kids we’ll never have.
If you hear this song a hundred times it still won’t be enough.
– “Sluttering (May 4th)

A near miss or a close call?
I keep a room at the hospital.
I scratch my accidents into the wall.
– “Accident Prone

I have a present: it is the present.
You have to learn to find it within you.
If you could save yourself,
you could save us all.
Go on living, prove us wrong.
Save Your Generation”)

These songs hit me so, so hard. And it turns out they are all from the album that basically killed the band.

Dear You was their major label debut. They were on Geffen, and had Green Day’s producer, video director, etc. etc. The label thought they’d be the next Green Day.

…and then the album sold 40,000 copies. Label didn’t give a fuck about them anymore, the punks got pissed because they “sold out” (and because the album sounded so much more produced), they got fed up with each other, and they quit.

There was a moment in the movie when someone said “man, if this album came out in 1998, it would have been gigantic.” I think about 1998 – I would have firmly been in my Promise Ring, Fifteen, and Propagandhi phase – and I think, “hell yeah this woulda been all I listened to!” I have a good friend that always contended this would be my gateway Jawbreaker album, and it’s slowly becoming that.

I say slowly because the dirty secret is that even though I got to see Jawbreaker do their heralded Riot Fest performance AND went to this screening (attended by Jawbreaker bassist Chris, who lives in Olympia and works at a food bank), my knowledge of them is slight. The songs that I know well are songs that I fucking adore; I still think “Sluttering (May 4th)” deserves to be part of the “oh god” double A side 7” that would include the Mountain Goats “No Children” on the other side and be the single greatest fucked up breakup single ever.

I moved to my own apartment recently, my first time ever living alone (no partner, no dog). Something told me that I should buy a copy of Dear You to listen to while I unpacked.

I did, and I was right. And seeing those songs on the big screen – about two months since my landlord handed me my keys – made me say “oh my god” out loud.1

Jawbreaker has been a slow burn for me, and I still know way more Jets to Brazil (Blake’s later band) songs by heart than I do Jawbreaker songs.

But I think it’s starting to take.

  1. When you’re an extrovert who lives alone, you talk to yourself a lot. A lot. Then, when you’re out in the world you have forgotten how to notice you’re still talking to yourself out loud. So that’s a fun thing.