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Jawbox

Jawbox was a post-hardcore band which formed in 1989 in Washington D.C., United States. The band consisted of J Robbins(vocals, guitar), Bill Barbot (guitar), Kim Colleta (bass)and Adam Wade (drums). The band split in 1997.

In their eight-year existence, Jawbox released four studio albums of increasingly skillful post-punk, not necessarily carryingthe torch of their Washington DC, elders (Minor Threat,Embrace, Rites of Spring), but instead building on the tradition ofChicago’s thriving early-’80s scene (Big Black, Naked Raygun, Effigies). Highly and perhaps unfairly scrut ...read more

Jawbox was a post-hardcore band which formed in 1989 in Washington D.C., United States. The band consisted of J Robbins(vocals, guitar), Bill Barbot (guitar), Kim Colleta (bass)and Adam Wade (drums). The band split in 1997.

In their eight-year existence, Jawbox released four studio albums of increasingly skillful post-punk, not necessarily carryingthe torch of their Washington DC, elders (Minor Threat,Embrace, Rites of Spring), but instead building on the tradition ofChicago’s thriving early-’80s scene (Big Black, Naked Raygun, Effigies). Highly and perhaps unfairly scrutinized forbeing thefirst act to leave über-indie Dischord Records, the band proved cynics wrong by releasing two excellent LPs for Atlantic thateasily surpassed their Dischord output, all thewhile retaining their integrity and creative control.

Ex-Government Issue bassist J. Robbins formed Jawbox in the summer of 1989. Deciding to switch to guitar and vocals, thefirst lineup was filled out by friends Adam Wade ondrums and Kim Coletta on bass. Their first recording, a self-titled four-track7” EP, was released in the spring of 1990 on their own DeSoto imprint.

Immediately after having written 12 new songs, the band headed into Inner Ear with engineer Eli Janney (Girls Against Boys)to record their debut LP for Dischord later that year.Not regarded as a blunder in hindsight by the band, but still seen as anunfocused recording, Grippe is nonetheless a record that rewards repeated listening, despite its formativenature.

Shortly after the recording of Grippe, the band considered adding a second guitarist to the lineup. Drummer Wade obliged byintroducing Bill Barbot of Clambake, which promptlybroke up, enabling Barbot to join the fold. Adding Barbot as secondguitarist immediately opened windows for the band, allowing for a more texturized sound and providing anotherstrong creativeforce for the group.

In January of 1992, Jawbox recorded Novelty with producer Iain Burgess, who had worked on some of the band’s favoriterecords. A moodier affair than Grippe, the dual force ofRobbins’ and Barbot’s guitars is sacrificed in the mix, leaving thelistener a bit frustrated. The songwriting is improved and more varied. It was regarded as a marked improvementover theband’s debut.

Adam Wade soon left the band to join fellow D.C. scenesters Shudder to Think. Jawbox superfan Zach Barocas had recentlymoved from New York to D.C. to attend university, andhe had been rooming with Coletta. Wanting to concentrate on hisstudies, Barocas hesistantly dragged out his drum kit and soon found himself a member of one of his favoritebands. Adding aunique, jazz-inflected touch to the band, including remarkable creative input, Barocas made the songwriting process moreorganic than before.

During the punk/alternative band shopping spree of the early ’90s that took place in lieu of the signings of undergroundheroes Nirvana and Helmet, Atlantic Records came a-courting,and the major label-leery band weighed its options intensely.Having been a self-sufficient machine from day one, the band outlined its needs and wants before signing on the dottedline.Being control freaks, the band signed a contract that refused tour support and retained all their independent powers. Signingto Atlantic enabled the foursome to treat Jawboxas a full-time endeavor, and it also allowed them to take their dynamite liveshow to previously unvisited countries. Needless to say, these were all moot points to a fair amount of“indie-or-death”-minded fans, and the move engendered sour grapes among some of their close-minded admirers. One “fan” wrote to wishthem death in a fiery van accident, andanother quoted the Clash’s “Complete Control,” painfully unaware that they weren’ton SST or Touch and Go, but a highly corporate outfit as well.

Most of the songs for their major-label debut had been written prior to Atlantic’s involvement with the band, and thepresence of Barocas solidified what Robbins referred to as a“mystical communication” within the band. With the help of TedNicely, Jawbox recorded For Your Own Special Sweetheart, a phenomenal record that easily stands as one of thebestreleases to come out of the fertile D.C. scene of the ’80s and ’90s. A thoroughly excellent recording from top to toe, itsgenesis was surely aided by the increased studio time theband had due to their major label contract.

An onslaught of touring surrounded the release of Sweetheart (the band regularly toured eight months a year), exposing theband to its regular crowds and some new ones, thanksto an opening stretch with labelmates Stone Temple Pilots. MinimalMTV rotation for a couple videos introduced Jawbox to a select few, but the record went shamefully unnoticedoutside of theusual indie community.

Jawbox recorded their fourth LP in the winter of 1995/1996 with John Agnello, who had worked with everyone from Earth,Wind and Fire to Chavez. A somewhat glossy sheenpervades Jawbox, but the incessant touring gave way to a band capableof playing magically together in their sleep. Thankfully, the record is still the work of a vital, passionate band.The songs arenearly as good as those on Sweetheart, but the polished sound sacrifices some of the blood and sweat that likely went intothe recording. If it was an attempt to bemore accessible to radio, it didn’t work; despite the customary critical approval,Jawbox went DOA in the shops with unfamiliar consumers.

Yet more touring ensued through the beginning of 1997. In April of that year, the band decided to call it quits, a decisionbased on a culmination of several events. Least amongthem was being dropped by their label; chief among them was Barocas’decision to move back to New York for film school. Robbins quickly formed Burning Airlines, eventuallyinviting Barbot along forthe ride. Barbot and Coletta continued to run DeSoto Records, who released My Scrapbook of Fatal Accidents, a solidpackage of odds and ends. Barocasalso became a part of the Up on In.

In december, 2009 Jawbox reunited briefly for an appearance on a late night television show in celebration of the reissue ofFor Your Own Special Sweetheart.

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Similar Bands: The Afghan Whigs, Quicksand, Burning Airlines, Hum, Channels

LPs
Jawbox
1996

3.6
39 Votes
For Your Own Special Sweetheart
1994

4.1
229 Votes
Novelty
1992

3.9
40 Votes
Grippe
1991

3.2
27 Votes
EPs
Savory + 3
1994

4.3
4 Votes
Compilations
For Your Own Special Sweetheart [Remastered]
2009

4.3
12 Votes
My Scrapbook of Fatal Accidents
1998

3.5
11 Votes

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