With Jawbreaker's first album, Unfun
, they proved themselves to be more than just a Punk band. They were energetic, dark, and with poetic lyrics that resemble the arty beat poetry of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Chuck Bukowski, but with a twist that was, and is, described as emo. But on Bivouac, Jawbreaker mastered that.
Slower than Unfun, Bivouac is a look at the world from the inside out. The songs are slow shades of poetic alienation that goes a few steps above teenage poetry (a lot of steps) and perfectly take stabs at the world. "Shield Your Eyes" opens the album perfectly. It starts off with a small line of feedback, and a quick drum roll before going into the song with a great melody covered by a wall of distortion. The bass line is bouncy and the drums are perfect, but it's the lyrics that are the true catch. It tells the story of a man who looks straight into the sun, which "Lights the whole damn sky", and is blinded. "He can't do anything, Everything is a lie." That single line sums up the whole record. Unlike most bands, Jawbreaker takes an equal amount of storytelling, preaching, and self deprecating into one mix; most bands take one of those elements and just stretch it until it pops.
As always, the rhythm section of Chris Bauermeister and Adam Pfahler is top notch. They prove to be very versatile tempo-wise, and always keep up with the wall of distortion that Blake cemented into the band's sound. One of the best examples is "Face Down". The song's bass line is great; simple, yet extremely effective. The drums show an equal amount of fluency, as they aren't too fast nor too slow.
Donatello is another example of how, lyrically, Jawbreaker was the best. There's poetry, "I'm gonna cut my strings and kill the puppeteer. Then I'll walk on out of here", and in your face, to the point, one liners, "Sure you made an impression. Depression". It also features some of Blake's most passionate singing. He switches from almost whispering slurs into passionate yelps at the world. There's a short recorded spoken word interlogue as well. "When it all comes down, I can show you something you will not believe. When it all comes down, we're gonna see a real masterpiece. With an artist's eye and a killer's touch. Takes a life to make one."
So, in case you haven't noticed, I think Blake is a lyrical genius. Most punk lyricists just stood to the loud and fast rules back in those days. But Blake presented something much different, something that appealed to a whole new group of kids, waiting for the next Rites of Spring
, the next wave of emo. Over the years, however, he has been mimicked by little wannabe pop-punk bands that stole the originality of it and made it, unfortunately, a bad take on teenage poetry.
One of the best songs on the album is the self explanatory, Tour Song
. Despite the differing subject matter, Tour Song has the same approach as the previous songs. It shows that touring's main catch is playing, and even that is hard to get through. "Chesterfield King" is one of the lighter tunes on the album, describing an affair, but with a beat twist. "She asked me if I had a name. I told her I was glued up on some chick. We sat and smoked against the wall. Drank a beer, felt the chill of fall."
This incredible record ends with the epic, ten minute and six second, "Bivouac". Out of all the sad songs on this record, the saddest has got to be this one. Similar to The Velvet Underground
's "Sister Ray", Bivouac is loose and jammy, but still with a sense of direction. The lyrics are also poetic and arty, something that could describe this record perfectly.
Most people call 24 Hour Revenge Therapy
the band's best album. Which makes sense; it's the band's most accessible record before signing to a major label. So all the so called "real fans" that "stick it to the man" by not listening to Dear You
, go for Revenge Therapy, the same reason all the "hardcore Green Day fans", go for Kerplunk
, instead of Dookie
. But I'm not going to waste my time. In my opinion, Bivouac
is the band's Classic. It's dark, emotional, witty, and arty, but still with the flare of Punk rock.