Review Summary: Yes, Glassjaw still kills people...
"Haha, Glassjaw still plays music?"
This was the reaction I got when I told a musically-inclined friend of mine I was, in fact, leaving my job early to see the band in Brooklyn the next night. It's no stretch to say that it's not like you could blame the guy. Glassjaw are a band who have supposedly self-destructed any number of times at different points since the release of just two cult-classic records (2000's Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence
and 2002's Worship & Tribute
), building up a kind of retarded post-hardcore mythology due to the band's own silence surrounding its own workings, and its enigmatic/trollish/asshole way of dealing with any REAL questions in interviews. Is it record label trouble? Will there ever be a goddamn album? Why did they get rid of Todd on 2nd guitar? Is Daryl smoking rock/shooting up/losing it? Are they just assholes? Why the hell did it take them eight years to do ANYTHING? And the fucking ARROGANCE of these dudes! Putting out only ONE song a month, in an obscure format, in super-limited quantities, with no super-convenient digital download immediately available? And these things are going on eBay for over $150 each! ONE SONG! I'm not even that dumb. Point is... why should anyone care if Glassjaw decides to release semi-new music that has existed in well-documented bootlegs for the better part of four years, one of them being around in forms since the bands inception
Because like it or not, NO ONE does music like Glassjaw does their music. Yes, letlive's new record was awesome. But it was only awesome because it reminded you of what bands like Glassjaw, Thrice, Thursday, etc. did in their prime seven years ago. Our Color Green
was named after the band's first 7", and in many ways signifies a rebirth of sorts for the band in how it musically retains elements of all their records with a distinctly new sense of groove, melodicism and heft that the band only hinted at on old records. Even though Daryl is in my own opinion at 80% on these songs, he lets the pretenders to the throne know that he's still better than them for a reason. "Jesus Glue" finds the band turning in a stellar performance with Daryl's wails during the verses, hindered only by a questionable vocal filter and a slightly annoying screech during the freak-out parts. "Stars" and "Lennon" both show that Daryl can still turn in a hair-raising vocal performance on par with much of the "old stuff" that so many people talk about.
Glassjaw stepped up the technical prowess considerably in the last few years and it shows, tapping into some delicious Cuban rhythms on "Jesus Glue" along with Arabian riffage, bringing to mind a Middle Eastern warzone with Daryl Palumbo's religious proclamation of "My faith shall be restored/In a valiant fire in his daddy's war". "You Think You're (John Fucking Lennon)" might be the band's defining song, having quickly become a classic with fans since its live origin in 2006 with its incredibly heavy lurch and chaotic breaks with a captivating, beautiful chorus melody and hook. "Stars", a reworked version of band oldie "Star Above My Bed", finds a much more lively rhythm section and an unrestrained vocal performance from Daryl Palumbo that ranks among his most intense, becoming the definitive version of the song and tying the old with the new. "Natural Born Farmer" (existing in rough live incarnations since 2003) and new song "All Good Junkies Go To Heaven" are the more melodic moments of the EP, but still revolve around the dense rhythm section, showing why Manny and Durijah are possibly the tightest, heaviest rhythm combo of any post-hardcore group around today, being the clear focus and attraction on most of the songs with their incredibly muscular sense of groove and precision. Not to be outdone, Beck holds down the guitar front with precision and taste, displaying a measured but powerful and technically impressive level of shred and replacing whats-his-name with no more than a few pedals. Basically the band has never sounded this vital, powerful, or measured in its existence. There really aren't many songs out there that utterly destroy cities like "You Think You're (John Fucking Lennon)" does when played loud with some nice subs.
As great as the music on display is here... it's only five songs after an eight-year gap in output. The band makes no bones about being in this for themselves only and cares little about the almost gargantuan expectations and hype that their progeny and fanbase have built up in their absence. For many fans it's time to put up or shut up. Do we want a new album? That's pretty obvious. Chances are we'll get one soon, and it'll likely sound little like these five songs, being almost like photographs of where the band's been in the murky years since those two awesome records eight years back. New, unrecorded song "Black Nurse" is a significantly different step for the band, and maybe a precursor of what's to come. But then again, you just never know with this band. To quote drummer Durijah Lang at the Brooklyn 12/12/10 show, "I just work here."
But even with these semi-new songs, let's be real here, after all the hater bullshit and complaining: are there any other post-hardcore bands alive that can even touch this level of quality? Name some. Really, I'll wait. This is just the teaser before the main event. Stop your BAWWWWWWW and listen to the music. They honestly don't owe us anything. But when they do give us something it's undeniably better than anything else like it. So... after eight years of virtual creative inactivity, lineup changes, alienated fans, and changed musical times, does Glassjaw still kill people? In short: yes. Hell fucking yes.