It’s hard to overstate the impact Jawbreaker had on informing and influencing modern punk music. A huge cult concern, they found fans in everyone from Foo Fighters to Green Day. Their trademark mix of brutally personal, wry, razor-sharp lyrics and distinctive, buoyant pop punk helped them stand head and shoulders above most of their cohorts and, to this day, inspire countless bands in their wake.
One such band is Philadelphia’s Fire In The Radio, whose new album, New Air, unapologetically celebrates the sort of jubilant, confessional punk rock Jawbreaker made into an art. “New Air was written as a response to the current divisive climate in our country,” say the band of the album’s title track. “It’s told from the view of two people struggling to find a way forward in an untenable relationship”. So far, so Jawbreaker fan – but New Air also follows Jawbreaker’s latter-day predilection for experimentation and genre-hopping, traversing grunge, new wave and shoegaze as it goes.
Below, to celebrate both their new album and Jawbreaker’s upcoming reunion, Fire In The Radio pick the 10 Jawbreaker songs which mean the most to them.
Want (from Unfun)
“We first became aware of Jawbreaker following 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, but immediately had to acquire the back catalogue. This was the opening track on their first album, Unfun, and its urgency is palpable: ‘Three words keep running around my mind, but my tongue is hard to find… I want you.’ Pretty sure every young punk band tried to rip this (and Boat Dreams) off at some point. We certainly did.”
Chesterfield King (from Bivouac/Chesterfield King EP)
“Three songs into [the CD version of] Bivouac, this comes on. The start/stop syncopated drums, the patented palm muting into the open ringing chords; it all supported the excitement and tension of a new relationship that is being simultaneously reflected in the lyrics. While other Jawbreaker songs more directly referenced Kerouac, this was the first one that made us think this guy [Blake Schwarzenbach, frontman] was writing in a literary style far beyond what most other punk bands were doing. It opened our minds to the idea that lyrics were more than just filler, scribbled quickly on to paper between takes during band practice. If done well, [they] could really matter. It also caused us to smoke way too many cigarettes.”
Do You Still Hate Me? (from 24 Hour Revenge Therapy)
“We’ve all been in love. We’ve all experienced self-doubt following a painful breakup. This song encapsulates these emotions perfectly. Need to drive through the pouring rain to stand in front of your former significant other’s house to win them back? This is your soundtrack.”
Boxcar (from 24 Hour Revenge Therapy)
“Good bands write songs that people can relate to. Great bands have the ability to step outside themselves and offer a broader narrative. Jawbreaker is one of those bands, and this is one of those songs. While things are more stratified now, at the time this song was written, the lines as to whether one was or was not “punk” were more significantly drawn. Jawbreaker had the ability to call bullshit on the whole scene. It led to the recognition [that] this band was about more than fitting in to some cabined view of what was permissible. Rather, they were focused on making songs that connected, regardless of definition.”
Kiss The Bottle (from 17 Reasons: The Mission District)
“The opening riff on this song felt as though it could have just as easily been a band coming out of Chapel Hill in the 90s. By the time the singing kicks in though, it’s pure Jawbreaker: “I kissed the bottle, I should have been kissing you.” It’s a song that inspired 1000 alcohol-fuelled nights, and likely as many late-night confessions.”
Tour Song (from Bivouac/Chesterfield King EP)
“This might not make most Jawbreaker fans’ top 10 lists, but if you’ve ever been in a band trying to fix your van’s engine in the middle of a snow storm to get to the next show, this song takes on an increased sense of importance. They always say that struggle precedes success. This was the struggle part.”
Jinx Removing (from 24 Hour Revenge Therapy)
“It’s sometimes overlooked how much the originality of the drums and bass contributed to the overall sound Jawbreaker created. Jinx Removing is a great example. Adam Pfahler’s drums blaze out of the gate with quick stops that only drive the next section harder, while Chris Bauermeister’s bass does these intermittent runs that are on par with some of the best moments achieved by Mike Mills or Karl Alvarez. But what separates Jawbreaker from just making great up-tempo rock songs is always the lyrics: ‘We’re too smart to watch TV, we’re too dumb to make believe. The songs on 24 Hour… are so powerful because they are about things we all experienced as young adults, but it gave these experiences context and purpose in a way we wanted to articulate but couldn’t yet state ourselves.”
Oyster (from Dear You)
“Every great rock band has a guitar player that’s innovative. And while Blake Schwarzenbach is known best for his lyric writing, his style of guitar playing is also unique. Whether born out of the necessity of being a three piece, or by design, we’re hard pressed to recall another band that made two notes played repetitively over a chorus sound so compelling.”
Jet Black (from Dear You)
“While many criticised Jawbreaker for signing to a major label and making Dear You, all we could think when we first heard this album was what an amazing record [it was]. On Dear You, Jawbreaker were able to stretch beyond their humble beginnings and travel across genres to make a compelling album. Nowhere is this more visible than on Jet Black.”
Sea Foam Green (from Etc.)
“This first appeared on a Lookout Records sampler, and later on Etc. The angular drone of the guitar and biting lyrics combined to paint a dark visual that is incredibly impactful. ‘Chewing Ephedrine, going to an unnamed den’ and ‘we met in rain, you asked me in, seemed like a good sign, now I need a guillotine to get you off my mind’ set a lyrical bar that few bands will hope to achieve. Great art doesn’t fade, it transcends and Jawbreaker has proven that.”
Fire In The Radio’s second album New Air will be released on 16th June via Wednesday Records. Check out their new video below: