Lost in the ’90s: Jawbox

Written by Lost in the '90s, Music

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JawboxWashington D.C.-based art-punk quartet Jawbox earned the ire of indie purists in 1993 when they left Dischord Records for major-label Atlantic in the Great Post-Nirvana Alternative Rock Swoop-Up. It proved to be not that big of a deal in the end when the resulting album, For Your Own Special Sweetheart, while sounding a little cleaner, ended up sounding pretty much like their Dischord stuff. Lead single “Savory” (download) summed up the band quite well, as the tension and release that was the band’s calling card was paired with metallic riffs and a melody almost bordering on crooning.

Atlantic’s marketing muscle got the band on MTV, and “Savory” got some airplay on 120 Minutes and even Beavis & Butthead commented on the video featuring a little girl’s twisted birthday party (love the Barbie cake!):

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While Sweetheart didn’t exactly make Jawbox a household name, Atlantic was happy enough with the buzz to place the band on their ill-fated Alternative-focused TAG Records imprint in 1996 (an imprint that was recently revived, in name only, to promote Tag Body Spray — seriously). The band’s second major-label release, a self-titled affair, was even more polished than its first, but not at the expense of sacrificing their sound. The group did, however, experiment with more straightforward rock on the first single, “Mirrorful”:

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Jawbox even saw the band record the closest thing to a ballad with “Iodine,” (download) one of those classic LIT90s examples of a song that should have been huge, yet was delegated to an unjustly ignored album track. Beset with promotional snafus, TAG thought a better choice for a second single was the group’s re-imagining of Tori Amos’ “Cornflake Girl.” Just one problem: “Cornflake Girl” was included on the album as a bonus track, tacked onto the end of “Absenter (Corn Flake Girl)” (download) and a couple minutes of silence. That didn’t stop them from making a video:

“Cornflake Girl” got some MTV and even Alternative radio love, but the fact that it wasn’t included on the tracklist of the album (later copies were released with a tiny sticker announcing its inclusion) didn’t help sales much and the band dissolved a year later. Both Sweetheart and Jawbox are easy to come by in the used CD bins and are highly recommended. Sorry, indie purists!

Get Jawbox music at Amazon or on Jawbox