Jawbox
For Your Own Special Sweetheart


5.0
classic

Review

by Eric USER (161 Reviews)
June 12th, 2010 | 158 replies


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist


It’s funny how the passing of time has the power to change music so distinctly. Of course, I make it no secret that I’m partial to music that's managed to remain untouched by the wrath of aging. The directness of a first impression, rarely clouded with uncertainty or ambiguity, is seductive when approaching an album. It’s difficult, though, to retain steadfast assertions after years of listening because my ears tend to register mixed feelings. Differing opinions stand out, and inklings of doubt caterpillars metamorphose into butterflies in my stomach regarding the positive feelings I once felt and the flaws I begin to hear.

And yet, for all this, some albums age so gracefully. Jawbox’s For Your Own Special Sweetheart is a stunning example of the ability of some music to stand up to the caustic gaze of retrospection. Even at the time, what could have gone down as an utter failure turned out to brashly prove doubters and purists wrong. The cards were stacked against Jawbox. Making the jump from hardcore-royalty Mr.FuckingPorchular
Dischord to big-name mainstream Atlantic Records could very well have been the musical equivalent of the BP oil spill. Rather, For Your Own Special Sweetheart has aged into something beautiful, a balancing act of epic proportions. Catchy, dissonant, furious and fun, Jawbox’s opus is a testament to the blending of distinct cultures and styles to create something unquestionably unique yet unapologetically familiar.

For Your Own Special Sweetheart's beauty lies not in the separate elements it borrows from traditional hardcore or alternative music, but instead in the band’s expertise in harmonizing the disparate aspects. The innovation guaranteed that Jawbox would become the influencer rather than the influenced, and for good reason. The flawless execution and combination of chunky riffs a la twin guitars, punchy, pummeling percussion, J. Robbins’ bare, clean vocals, and Kim Coletta’s skeletal bass-lines are irreconcilably ferocious and focused, sending chills down both the spines of distraught Dischord fans and a new, larger audience alike. Sweetheart’s real specialty, though, prevails in Jawbox’s ability to render notions like “harmony” and “dissonance” futile as descriptors, synchronizing the two together to the brink of discomfort in the band’s exhilarating and profound third full-length. Dually beautiful and melancholic, Sweetheart attains extraordinary levels of elegance through their tight, restrained, and disarmingly simple post-hardcore anthems like “FF=66,” “Savory,” “Cooling Card,” among a host of others. Instead of drowning itself in pressure and significance, the music feels unabashedly fun throughout, and paradoxically becomes all the more significant because of it. Simple aspects like Robbins’ vocal lines are seamlessly forged together with complexities like the ever-shifting guitars and shaky reverb, and manage never to lose a bit of personality and charisma in the process. As time goes by, the CD becomes inevitably worn, and detail after detail of the album are extrapolated, the charm of Sweetheart’s intimacy is never diminished. The controversy once surrounding Jawbox’s “sell-out” to a major label has shown that for Jawbox the real fervor lies in the unrelenting ferocity of the album, not which label released it.

Legions of post-hardcore and non-post-hardcore alike have cited Jawbox as a major influence in their music. Some worthy of the influence, while others not so much. Once again, this fact serves as another testament to Time’s kind enhancement of Sweetheart. The hazy pinkish woman underneath the “Jawbox” on the cover has morphed into somewhat of a symbol for me. The clashing elements that define the cover in dazzling manner (not unlike the music itself) remind me of time’s powerful effect on art and it’s ability to make Sweetheart the irrevocable classic that it remains today; not through an immediate likability (though it does have that), but rather through the timelessness of the sound-clash between hardcore aesthetics and alt-rock tendencies that Jawbox claimed for themselves.

The immaculate bending of original cultures and sounds that birthed Sweetheart are somewhat lost in the process of the album’s conception, but looking back on how Sweetheart’s fared over the many years it’s impossible to mourn this loss. Instead, celebrate the new, sensational movement born out of the raucous chord changes and furious riffage that inhabit the album. As Sweetheart begins to unwind itself over time, year after year, listen after listen, a magnificent album is slowly revealed. It’s been a while since Jawbox’s most heralded and controversial album was released. In comparison, as years surely pass and some of this year’s now-exalted albums are bound to fall behind bookshelves to be forgotten, time will surely take vengeance on the undeserving recipients of today’s praises, claiming them only ephemeral masterpieces. But time has spoken- balancing tension and dissonance with masterful restraint and an air free of pretension rarely manages to sound half as magnificent as For Your Own Special Sweetheart, and it’s pretty clear what Time’s verdict is on the album.



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user ratings (192)
Chart.
4.1
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
SeaAnemone
June 12th 2010


20535 Comments


if anyone wants to take a break from bitching in the 10-1 thread plz read this...




... yep, no one's gonna see this

Digging: Pharmakon - Bestial Burden

Athom
Staff Reviewer
June 12th 2010


17222 Comments


ABOUT FUCKING TIME THIS WAS REVIEWED! i fucking love you.

SeaAnemone
June 12th 2010


20535 Comments


thanks again for the advice MJ!


and yeah Adam, I couldn't think of a more necessary review... 50 votes? 4.1 avg? no review?!

Athom
Staff Reviewer
June 12th 2010


17222 Comments


screaming along to Savory right now

Bulldog
June 12th 2010


3796 Comments


congrats on 100 reviews Sea!

ConsiderPhlebas
June 12th 2010


6157 Comments


You've done this justice, Sea - good work. Congratulations on your hundred.

PuddlesPuddles
June 12th 2010


4784 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this was seriously never reviewed?

shhhista

SeaAnemone
June 12th 2010


20535 Comments


thaaaaaaaanks guuuuuuuuyyys

WeepingBanana
June 12th 2010


10186 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

wow, i was literally just listening to this like an hour ago thinking "how the fuck has no one reviewed this?"

Bitchfork
June 12th 2010


7584 Comments


It’s no secret that I’m partial to music that hasn’t felt the wrath of aging- the directness of a first impression, rarely clouded with uncertainty or ambiguity, is enticing when approaching an album.


Fix the dash and space problem or turn it into a semicolon (I'm for the latter of the two options, but it is your review, after all).

It's funny how the passing of time has the power to change music so distinctly. It's no secret that I'm partial to music that hasn't felt the wrath of aging- the directness of a first impression, rarely clouded with uncertainty or ambiguity, is enticing when approaching an album. It's more difficult to retain steadfast assertions after years of listening because my ears tend to manifest mixed feelings. Differing opinions stand out, and little inklings of doubt caterpillars metamorphose into full-grown butterflies in my stomach regarding the positive feelings I once felt and the flaws I begin to hear.


It's it's it's it's annoying.

What could have gone down as an utter failure turned out to brashly prove doubters and purists wrong.


Not bad but the "could have gone down" reads awkwardly; I'd rather you say "what could have been an utter failure." You've got a lot of problems like this (tiny hints of verbosity because you put so much detail into irrelevant things here). "Sea" for example:

and little inklings of doubt caterpillars metamorphose into full-grown butterflies in my stomach


inklings imply little things in this context, so "little" is redundant
"doubt caterpillars" is completely unnecessary as is that whole metaphor.
"full-grown"? really? we understand that caterpillars turn into butterflies and they grow.


eternium
June 12th 2010


16338 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This didn't already have a review?
Wow.

Bitchfork
June 12th 2010


7584 Comments


Catchy but dissonant, both furious and fun,


omit but and make it a four word list.

For Your Own Special Sweetheart’s


Formatting error.

but instead in the band’s expertise in harmonizing the disparate aspects, creating a work that will always be the influencer rather than the influenced. The flawless execution and combination of chunky riffs a la twin guitars, punchy, pummeling percussion, J. Robbins’ bare, clean vocals, and Kim Coletta’s skeletal bass-lines are irreconcilably ferocious and focused, sending chills down both the spines of distraught Dischord fans and a new, larger audience alike.


Relax with the italics, it gets old and pointless after a while. And it's also giving me the conclusion (without reading the rest of the review) that it's beauty is "expertise in harmonizing the disparate aspects," thus making me think already your opinion is extremely biased.


iarescientists
June 12th 2010


5863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

idk this just always felt like a lesser version of unwound to me; given i fucking love unwound

haven't read the review though; waiting to finish this game of nhl first

Bitchfork
June 12th 2010


7584 Comments


As time goes by, the CD becomes inevitably worn, and detail after detail of the album are extrapolated, the charm of Sweetheart’s intimacy is never diminished.


Insert "but" after the comma after extrapolated.

some worthy of the influence while others not so much.


Necessary? No.

But time has spoken- balancing tension and dissonance with masterful restraint and an air free of pretension rarely manages to sound half as magnificent as For Your Own Special Sweetheart, and it’s pretty clear what Time’s verdict is on the album.


Reference my first criticism regarding dashes.


Bitchfork
June 12th 2010


7584 Comments


otherwise though it's a great review man. just had a problem with some of the structure and one of the metaphors that i think is a little awkward.



Slum
June 12th 2010


2579 Comments


wtf I need to hear this. Excellent review, Eric.

ShadowRemains
June 12th 2010


21054 Comments


awesome review

congrats on 100

pos'd

the most interesting man in the world ftw

Digging: Execration (NOR) - Morbid Dimensions

Douglas
June 12th 2010


9118 Comments


congrats on a hundred man, lovely write up.

porch
June 12th 2010


8459 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great review, and a badly needed one too

Skimaskcheck
June 12th 2010


2360 Comments


yayyy 100, nice one man! sounds like i need to get this



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