The 11 best songs recorded by Jawbox

(Image credit: Dischord)

Jawbox are a post-hardcore band from Washington DC. During their original eight-year career, they released four acclaimed studio albums before calling it quits in 1997. In 2009, the quartet reunited for one night to record a spot on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to mark the reissue of their 1994 album For Your Own Special Sweetheart, and ten years on, in 2019, they put their reformation on a more solid footing, with a short US tour: dates in Europe followed post-pandemic.

In the summer of 2022, Jawbox released their first new studio material in 26 years with The Revisionist EP, which features two Grippe re-recordings - Grip and Consolation Prize - plus a cover of Wire's Lowdown. The EP also marks guitarist Brooks Harlan's first recording with the band, after joining in 2021.

Here are the 11 best Jawbox songs, so far.

Louder line break

Tools And Chrome (Grippe, 1991)

This track first appeared on Jawbox’s self-titled 1990 debut EP. Perhaps constrained by the various limits of being a three-piece, Tools And Chrome – which later reappeared as a highlight of their Dischord debut Grippe – is far more urgent and direct than their later releases, and is shot through with that classic Washington DC sound.

Static (Novelty, 1992)

Taken from the band’s second album, Static was released as a single and remained a live fixture throughout their career. Bill Barbot’s addition to the line-up as second guitarist and vocalist widened the band’s sound and Novelty benefitted greatly as a result. Check out this Peel Session, recorded in 1994 at the legendary Maida Vale BBC studios in London.

Cooling Card (For Your Own Special Sweetheart, 1994)

This song’s charm lies in the simplicity of Coletta’s bass interplay with Zachary Barocas’ pummelling kick and snare. Together, they pave the way for its explosive chorus.

Savory (For Your Own Special Sweetheart, 1994)

Jawbox’s first major label single, and perhaps their best known song. Its jangling guitar chimes are punctuated by unfussy bass playing and Barocas’ distinct meter, while Robbins delivers a first class vocal performance – look out for the instruments falling back after three minutes. This song was covered by members of Far and Deftones for the former’s 1997 EP Soon.

FF=66 (For Your Own Special Sweetheart, 1994)

After leaving Dischord, Jawbox signed to Atlantic for 1994's For Your Own Special Sweetheart. This, the opening track, shows no sign of dulling their burr for their new paymasters. The song begins with scraping guitar strings and dull feedback as a voice says, “He invites the storm, he lives by instinct with fears that are not fears – but prickles of ecstasy” before a raging Robbins’ vocal delivery seems to burst a vessel in his neck.

Mirrorful (Jawbox, 1996)

Mirrorful is the opening track of the quartet's fourth album, and boasts one of their best choruses. The single was accompanied by a video which features a particularly fraught game of Kerplunk while the band perform in a small monochrome room.

Cruel Swing (For Your Own Special Sweetheart, 1994)

Cruel Swing was given a wider audience due to its inclusion in the second episode of My So-Called Life, the US teen drama which launched the careers of Claire Danes and Jared Leto. One of Jawbox’s more aggressive songs, it's held together by its swaggering, doom-laden rockabilly riffs and Barocas’ unrelenting drumming.

Won't Come Off (Jawbox, 1996)

Taken from their 1996 self-titled release, Won’t Come Off is notable for its chorus and Barocas’ octopus-like drum work for all but three seconds of the song’s duration.

68 (For Your Own Special Sweetheart, 2009)

68 originally appeared as a bonus track on the quartet’s 1994 Savory + 3 EP. A simple, ringing five-note riff is underpinned by Kim Coletta’s pounding bass and a soaring Cure-esque chorus. It would later reappear as a bonus track on the band’s reissue of For Your Own Special Sweetheart.

Chinese Fork Tie (Absenter / Chinese Fork Tie, 1995)

An alternate version of the track which appeared on For Your Own Special Sweetheart, this take was recorded by Shellac bassist Bob Weston at Chicago’s Shabby Road studio. For reasons known only to himself, drummer Barocas adopted nicknames for the credits on Jawbox's singles. On this 1995 release, he appears under the alias Takashi Shimura – a noted Japanese actor who appeared in 21 of Akira Kurosawa’s 30 films. On their 1993 split with Edsel, he was known as Jim Schortz and as El Jefe on the Motorist/Jackpot Plus! single the same year. Your guess is as good as ours.

Cornflake Girl (Jawbox, 1996)

Over the course of their career, Jawbox recorded a number of covers, including songs by Cole Porter, The Cure, Big Boys and the Minutemen. But it was their reimagining of Tori Amos’ 1994 single that transcended the idea of a mere cover version. A squall of feedback ushers in a heavier take of the piano-led classic yet it manages to retain the North Carolina songwriter’s delicate verses. It became so popular, in fact, that their label shot a video for the song. 

Simon Young

Born in 1976 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Simon Young has been a music journalist for over twenty years. His fanzine, Hit A Guy With Glasses, enjoyed a one-issue run before he secured a job at Kerrang! in 1999. His writing has also appeared in Classic RockMetal HammerProg, and Planet Rock. His first book, So Much For The 30 Year Plan: Therapy? — The Authorised Biography is available via Jawbone Press.