Repeat this with me until it sinks in: there’s a new Glassjaw album. It’s written, it’s recorded, it will quite possibly release on schedule, and we’re (probably) not all collectively dreaming. Two songs have now been released, and contrary to instinct and logic, they also actually do exist. I know, right?
Why am I doing this bit? Basically, it’s been a long time since we heard from Glassjaw: the band’s unique brew of satanic label nemeses, persistent health issues, and ironclad dedication to not talk to their fans if at all possible has left us holding hands across forums. A new Glassjaw full-length has been the Detox of the post-hardcore world for 15 years, and unlike that hip-hop myth told of only in whispers, Material Control is both real and also probably actually good. But if you’re planning on going into the new one blind, I’d take a second to reconsider; Glassjaw’s evolution over the years has been a fascinating one, and even at their most scattershot, their discography feels surprisingly like a complete package.
The early years and Silence – The story starts in the early 90s with the dissolution of straight-edge Jewish post-hardcore icons Sons of Abraham, of which Justin Beck and Todd Weinstock were both members. Glassjaw’s earliest incarnation, featured in demos only worth tracking down for the truly completist fan, sounds like a scrappy punk band made of your high school friends with a local legend/possible serial killer wailing over the top. It’s rough, but we all start somewhere. Two releases whipped the band into shape, and put them on track to make something big: the Kiss Kiss Bang Bang EP, and sessions with producing legend Don Fury that saw the first incarnations of songs that would soon appear on the debut album.
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence is an album with a cloud over it, for a few reasons. The most obvious is the intense misogyny in the lyrics: this is an album so vitriolic, I’d swear Daryl’s spit is still hitting me in the face 17 years later and on a different continent. Secondly, the band signed to the incredibly negligent Roadrunner Records, a decision which literally no-one can construe as a good choice in hindsight. Impressively, though, the album stands as a classic in spite or even because of it – every adrenaline-fueled, blood-curdling second seems rocket-fueled by the negativity and doubt. It’s not an easy listen, but it’s a cathartic one, and you’re left amazed the band could write a heavy song again with all the demons exorcised over these 51 minutes. Check out all-time opener “Pretty Lush”, and Daryl’s harrowing poison ode to his Crohn’s disease, the title track, right here.
The follow-up – Long before their reputation as teasers of the highest order started, it is rumoured that Glassjaw released an album within a normal timeframe. Yep, Worship & Tribute dropped only two years after Silence, and to call it a left turn does injustice to both the album and the concept of left turns. In just over two years, Glassjaw became Glassjaw in the fullest; it sounds like a jazz-tinged cover band and some political pop-punkers having a bar fight egged on by the demon who does vocals on “Stuck Pig”. One of the best songs, a satirical piece of absolute venom which provides a sarcastic bookend to the period of misogynistic lyrics named “Convectuoso”, was cut by Roadrunner due to some petty label bullshit; it says a lot that in doing so, they made “Two Tabs of Mescaline” into an unintentional contender for the best closer of all time. It would be easy for me to tell you to just listen to the whole thing – and I mean yeah, listen to the whole thing – but I’ll leave the opening one-two gut-punch here for your pleasure.
The hiatus years and EPs – We now enter a period of long darkness, punctured only by brief drips of information like cracks of light in a mineshaft. Glassjaw were reborn as a touring four-piece in their finest incarnation, with the legendary rhythm section of Manny Carrero and Durijah Lang in addition to Beck and Palumbo. Daryl spent some time creating a dance/punk/hip-hop side project that wasn’t nearly as fun to listen to as it was to write sentences about, although the occasional fantastic single suggested that pop wasn’t necessarily a barren field. The El Mark EP, comprised of three Worship b-sides, dropped in 2005 with little fanfare; it’s only available in iTunes quality, but features one of the band’s best as second fiddle to Daryl’s smooth-talking conman impersonation.
Five years after, the rumoured third album finally coalesced into… not quite that, but something pretty much just as good. Our Color Green (The Singles) is a compilation of vinyl singles which the band released in the last months of 2010, although it hangs together as well as any EP has a right to. The five songs uniformly feature a rough, garage rock-y production that’s about as harsh on the ears as the cover art is on the eyes, while straddling genres between straight pop-punk, early song “Star Above My Bed” resurrected as a gritty stop-and-start rocker, and just fucking batshit insane ear splinterers.
Not content to be predictable, Glassjaw quickly followed up with a full EP named Coloring Book, tossed out for free to fans at the beginning of 2011 during their live shows like a water bottle. Coloring Book is, well, unique– an all-clean vocal, Latin rhythm-tinged, keyboard-heavy soundscape of highly psychosexual, psychotic, emotional moments in time. It was the final release before the second long hiatus, and also the last bow of the band’s best line-up; make no mistake, Durijah and Manny go out with some of the best drumming/basswork you will ever hear. I’ll let the music do the talking:
The long wait to now – And then not much happened again, at least not under the Glassjaw name. Daryl finally fulfilled the promise of his pop career with the formation of Color Film, a ridiculously groovy Cure/New Order/Talking Heads test tube baby who still managed to also take frustratingly long to finish anything. Living Arrangements finally dropped in 2017, five years after its first single and just months ahead of the new Glassjaw.
Glassjaw themselves confirmed the existence of new music in 2015 with the release of “new white extremity”, a solid two years before the upcoming release of Material Control, in which time naturally not a word was said. Then, in the last two weeks alone, you have the Amazon information leak, the quick retraction, Instagram and Flexidisc teasers, an anti-climactic website pre-order, and finally, “shira”. If I had to guess at what Material Control will sound like, I would inevitably be way off the mark; but I feel pretty confident in assuming it will be a worthy addition to one of the finest discographies I know. If this starter pack did anything for you, well, all I can say is welcome to the Glassjaw waiting game – probably best to pull up a chair, but it will be worth every second.