Revisiting the Past with Jets to Brazil

Lately I’ve found it hard to search out new music. I’m kind of tired of the new wave synth action, can’t get into freak folk – or whatever you want to call it – and find myself wishing bands like Belle and Sebastian and Radiohead would go back to their older styles. As a result, I’ve been going back into my collection and looking for bands that really influenced the way I listen to music.

Probably the biggest influence (other than the Beatles) is Jets to Brazil. Like most fans, I discovered JTB because it was “Blake’s new band.” Jawbreaker is a band I think appeals to everyone, whether or not you take the time to get into their music. It’s raw, yet polished. Blake’s lyrics fall somewhere in between punk rock and poetry. It’s high energy, but still melodic. Dear You will be a CD I will listen to when I’m 35, 45, and probably 65. Enter JTB.

Considering the evolution of Blake’s songwriting, JTB can be viewed as a maturation of Jawbreaker. Blake was getting older and going through some huge changes in his life, including learning how to sing again after his throat surgery. His lyrics changed from energetic depression to introspective questions and bass player Jeremy Chatelain and drummer Chris Daly add the subtle textures needed to make this jump possible. The melodies became less aggressive and more layered. The songs were more thought out. After one listen of Orange Rhyming Dictionary, any thought of being disappointed with the prospect of no more Jawbreaker records was quickly gone. The album melds the energy of a punk rock record with amazing ballads that show Blake’s ability to craft imagery in a song. The album balances emotions perfectly ending with the perfect composition, Sweet Avenue. This album was released in 1998, and I still got chills hearing the band play it live in Toronto in 2003.

It is hard to grow with a band. You change and they change and very often you are changing in different ways. Can you really expect to stay a fan of the thrash punk band or a gangsta rap outfit you loved in high school when you are pushing 30? I’d hope not. Nostalgia is one thing, but the questions you ask change as you get older. Getting dumped in high school isn’t the same as ending a serious relationship. Questions of your future when you work at McDonalds don’t add up to the insecurity of being lost after university. As I started to understand these changes, the band was on a parallel path. The release of Four Cornered Night helped me discover my first truly depressing but helpful album. After being hit with song after song of love lost and insecurity, it helped me ask some of the same questions. Is this hokey? Sure, but most people who don’t have life figured out in Grade 12 probably do the same thing. Again, the album closes with a fantastic track, All things good and nice. Blake actually opens up to his family, his fans and for the first time, his band.

The band came full circle with their final release. Perfecting Loneliness is the perfect swan song for the band. Fans of Jawbreaker can look at this record as a natural progression from Dear You, but more accurately it plays as a closing record for the band. The songs pay tribute to other musicians (for example the Disgrace channels Neil Young) and push the limits of the band’s previous output. All of the songs all top out over 5 minutes and use more sound effects and extended keyboard parts to help set moods and answer some of the questions they have been asking themselves. The band is tighter than any of the previous releases. Jeremy’s harmonies on Psalm might be the best sounds the band ever recorded. I find it interesting that as Blake shies farther and farther away from everyone, his band supports him more than any other release he recorded. This record rest firmly between unlimited potential and a final goodbye.

It’s bands like JTB that should have some of us looking back, instead of always looking forward.
MP3:: resistance is futile
MP3:: your having the time of my life
MP3:: cat heaven
MP3:: perfecting loneliness

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