Should Jawbreaker Reunite?

Washed Up Emo
Jun 21, 2015 · 15 min read

People are speculating that Jawbreaker are going to be added to Riot Fest.

Is that a good idea for them to reunite or best to be left to our memories?

What is the Emo Council?

The council is a group of bands, writers, music industry executives, regular folks and even parents all passionate about the genre that came together to debate once and for all, the best bands, albums and songs of the emo era. All council members were actively involved in the scene or a fan for each debate and/or topic.

Every member sends in his or her thoughts depending on the topic at hand. All of the council’s quotes are posted anonymously.

If you have any questions about the council and why we’re here, read this.

The Emo Council debates and decides…

I would go see them if they reunited. I have no problem with bands reuniting… but I could be biased.

If they played all of 24 Hour Revenge Therapy and a few songs off Bivouac (Chesterfield King, esp.) and one or two from Unfun, I’d be cool with that. I may get my ass handed to me for saying I don’t care much for Dear You, but I don’t care much for Dear You.

I kind of don’t care about seeing Jawbreaker. I like them a lot but am okay listening to them, I honestly would probably be almost as into seeing Jets To Brazil again.

My gut instinct is that I kinda don’t love all these reunions. I’m fine with the albums I have and as cool as it would’ve been to see some of these bands before, I’m okay with that not happening.

But then again I also think about how much garbage music is out today. If someone hears about Jawbreaker for the first time in 2015, that could change the entire course of their life just like it did for a lot of us. So that’s a positive thing to me.

A) I an anti-all of the reunions. The only ones I’ve been ok with so far are Refused doing a Shape of Punk to Come tour, and Mineral. And with that said, I thought Refused was fantastic and Mineral was terrible.

B) Now to completely contradict that, I would LOVE it if Jawbreaker did a tour for… drumroll… DEAR YOU. Just play me Dear You, straight through, and I’ll be happy. Also, I don’t think festivals are the right venue for reunions. Festivals are the least intimate shows you can see and there’s no way it’ll feel special.

I’m sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower to say that I am all for a Jawbreaker reunion.

I heard rumblings earlier this year that it may happen and I can’t be anymore excited to see a band that wrote my favorite albums of all time.

I thought the Mineral and American Football reunions were fantastic and didn’t diminish anything about their legacy.

I don’t think I’d want a reunion from them as much as I would Jets but let’s see. Accident Prone was on Dear You. Does anyone really not like that particular cut? Too mainstream? I didn’t give a fuck the 1st time I heard it. I just simply fell in love with a well written song that made me feel something incredible inside. Same as the 1st time I heard Boxcar. I know they got a ton of shit for Dear You by their “fans” and Geffen but that jam at the particular time I heard it will always have a special place in my heart.

I’ve only been to 3 reunion shows; Slint, My Bloody Valetine and the Sunny Day Real Estate reunion tour. All three were pretty awe inspiring to me because I had never seen those bands when they were active or with the original members but I have to agree with someone else that a festival isn’t the right venue for it. If the band truly warrants a reunion it should be a special night for the people that want to see them.

It seems like people are answering from two different lenses — personal or moral. So I don’t know. I’m just gonna freestyle here.

From a personal standpoint, I saw Jawbreaker a lot. They were great. I don’t need to see it again, but I wouldn’t say no if I ran into you on the street with an extra ticket.

From a moral standpoint, I have major issues with our completely fabricated notions of a “legacy” and a total commitment to autonomy and doing whatever the fuck you want. Which means that if Jawbreaker wanted to reunite and make a new record that sounded like A Flock of Seagulls, I would be like, “OK dudes, awesome. You do you.” Legacies are for Sony catalog labels and world leaders, not for punk kids who started bands who happened to get popular. So the point is, my position is Jawbreaker should do whatever they like and we should do whatever we like with that information. And the world will move on.

But as I write this, I also need to say: I can’t help but be a grouch about the fact that everyone hated Dear You when it came out in 1995 and that this was a band that was abandoned in droves by punk kids of that era. I’m grouchy about the fact that anyone would talk about Jawbreaker ruining their “legacy” now, when everyone already decided they had ruined their “legacy” twenty years ago. (I was not one. I still love Dear You.) I think this point only goes to bolster the position that legacies are bullshit — they are unstable and unreliable and in another twenty years we have no idea what anyone’s “legacy” will be.

So go on, Jawbreaker. You do you.

As long as Blake doesn’t go back to freestyle rapping on Vine while wearing floral tank tops, I am all for them doing whatever the hell they want!

I would be THRILLED if Jawbreaker reunited. I see no reason bands shouldn’t reunite if they want it and there’s demand for it (and with Jawbreaker, clearly there is), and I definitely don’t think a reunion can ruin a legacy. The Pixies reunion is the worst I personally have experienced, I hate the new record, I hated them live, and I thought without Kim it was hardly the Pixies. But even all that said, it does nothing to change how much I love the old records and better to give it a shot than not try at all I think.

But yeah, my main thing is these reunions allow me to see bands I never thought I’d see. By the time I got into American Football, Knapsack, Mineral, The Get Up Kids, The Replacements, etc etc they had already broken up… And now I’ve seen them all! And they were all so much fun! At the time I was getting into the bands I never thought that’d happen. So yes, I am very pro-Jawbreaker reuniting.

Also, I am on team Dear You.

Everyone has this idea of what the reunion should be for a band in their minds going in. Expectations are met, some aren’t.

Bands reuniting are like kids. You want to the best for them, you just never know if they’re gonna be at Harvard… or working the pole. All you can do is support them.

I’d be down for a Jawbreaker reunion to see 40 year olds get babysitters for one night and have to cancel the night before because of their kid’s recital.

Finally, Jawbreaker is not fucking emo. I don’t know who started that but it’s horse shit.

My answer is an overwhelming yes. This band is wildly important to me, and the chance to see them live is something I’ve been hoping for since I was a dumb teenager.

I’ve also got no beef with reunions. Some are good, some are bad, and some are in the middle. That’s something I could also say about shows I’ve seen from modern, active bands and none of them wrote fucking “Accident Prone.” Here’s hoping it happens.

I’ve appreciated the fact that all the bands I hoped would reunite (Quicksand, Jawbox, The Replacements, Into Another at the top the list) were great not just because they played the nostalgic “hits”, but because they actually rehearsed and put on respectable, well thought out shows.

I’m pretty ambivalent about a potential reunion, weirdly; I’ll certainly go see it if it’s near to me, but it’s not necessarily something for which I’d travel. But I do feel that because the band has held out reuniting for so long, the expectations for this will never be able to equal whatever the reality of the reunion entails, if it happens. Previous bands reuniting have set the bar pretty high in terms of quality, and Jawbreaker is absolutely a band that I don’t want to see return and just be okay.

I’m also on team Dear You, for the record, though I became a bigger Jawbreaker fan after they broke up, so perhaps that’s why I have no baggage associated with the album.

As much as I like the idea in theory, and Unfun was a favorite, I just have a strong inkling it will suck.

So, I hope I don’t get banned from the Emo Council back porch when I say that I never had much of a relationship with Jawbreaker. Largely because they were never called “emo” until recently, I just figured they were a melodic, highly respected punk band that I just missed out on and I got them confused with Superchunk a lot. These days, I sorta view them along the lines of Sonic Youth or The Fall or whatever, i.e., a band who influenced a shit ton of bands I like more than the original article.

Now, should Jawbreaker reunite…well, that’s asking a few different questions at once. From a standpoint of opportunity, they should absolutely reunite this year if they are going to do it — their cachet and credibility will never be higher than it is right now, unless Blake dies. And that’ll throw a wrench in any reunion plans.

From a moral standpoint, i.e., the one that cares about their “legacy,” I say, yes…Jawbreaker should reunite, because fuck all that talk of legacy. I’d like to think a major ambition of Washed Up Emo is to provide exposure and canonization to bands that never got it from the indie rock industrial complex despite how meaningful they were. Even though we talk about Jawbreaker like they were the Smiths of punk rock, they never topped any critics’ lists or even made any, they’re never included in Best of 90s features, they never got played on the radio…if they have a chance to actually reap their just rewards, fuck yeah they should do it.

Now, should they reunite for Riot Fest? Having gone to Coachella the past eight years, my opinion is that reuniting for a festival tends to only work if they were capable of playing a festival in the first place. It looks like American Football drew a great crowd at Primavera, but they’ve been a functioning, touring band for nearly a year now. When Sunny Day Real Estate played Coachella in 2011, the crowd was respectful and small and everyone had the same hairline as Jeremy Enigk — I imagine that’s what Jawbreaker would bring to the table at Coachella were they to play there, they’d be a 5 PM act of interest, but it would make our talk of them in hushed tones appear kinda ridiculous. This past year’s Drive Like Jehu set is the stuff of legend, their tent was empty. Now, Riot Fest…that festival seems to really take after Jawbreaker’s aesthetic, it’s kinda punk, kinda emo, kinda alt, very much in a 90s mindset…like, this should be Jawbreaker’s crowd. But would they get the kind of reception we’d want? Or would it be more like this?

I think all of us want the Jawbreaker reunion tour — I think that’s good for both the band and us, in that people see bands like American Football and Mineral selling out rooms across the country and recognizing that, hey, maybe these bands were important and remain important. A rising tide (no SDRE’s 3rd best album) lifts all boats, as it were. I mean, I saw Promise Ring in 2012 at the Avalon in Los Angeles and it was empty. There was no overground talk about emo, they were just putting some shows together and there was no context for them to be re-appreciated. If they did that in 2015, I imagine the response would be way different. And moreover, Jawbreaker in a room full of a Jawbreaker fans strikes me as a far better experience for all involved than a larger stage filled with people who simply may not have cared for whoever’s playing against them.

Now, should Jawbreaker reunite based on what we know about them as people? Fuck no! It’d probably be awful — as far as I know, the animosity between Blake and everyone else involved seems extremely high, and most of it is emanating from Blake. He seems like he’s in a really bad spot and while I’d love to believe that a Jawbreaker reunion could turn his life around, I worry that these shows will be either inept or really half-assed and that would fuck things up for Jawbreaker’s legacy, more so than simply getting back together to play the hits. I’ve heard rumors about what Jawbreaker has been offered in the past to reunite, enough that Blake would have to be out of his fucking mind to turn down. And you know what…he is out of his mind right now!

So the only important question really seems to be, will Jawbreaker reunite? And my answer is “probably not” and also, “I hope not.”

Actually, I co-sign on Jawbreaker’s emo-ness. To me, they were a Shredder Records band, a San Francisco band. No more an emo band than Crimpshrine or Green Day or J Church were. And I’m super liberal with who I call “emo.” They were really just a punk band.

Like a Jawbreaker reunion as a whole, I have also always been conflicted about Jawbreaker’s emo-ness. I mean, the song didn’t go “You’re not emo and I’m telling everyone…”

But at the same time, Dear You was emo — or at least influential to enough emo bands that, hey, something called The Emo Council has spent 23 emails debating them.

But I would mostly consider them a punk band, not unlike Fugazi. Oh, and yes, I would go to that reunion, too.

Long time listener, first time caller…

So these past two replies are sort of getting at the core of this topic for me…

To me…”emo” in it’s original/early iteration was this oddball middleman. That punk band that was never really punk enough (you know, the ones making lyric sheets and getting called derogatory names by the punk rock roosters). The indie rock band that wasn’t aloof enough or antiseptic enough or as stoned as most 90s indie rock. The super arty hardcore band from Goleta that no one knew what to think of.

It was (and is, for me) Jawbreaker. It’s Leatherface. It’s Clikitat Ikatowi. It’s Yaphet Kotto. It’s J Church and Planes Mistaken For Stars (yeah, even the later stuff). Or Samiam…or Seaweed. None of which might fit squarely in the generally accepted bucket of, say, Jets to Brazil, or Strictly Ballroom, or Mineral. But it was a shared approach and intention (and to a lesser degree, cultural aesthetic)…everyone trying to paint the same painting, but using a slightly different palette.

And to me, things get a WHOLE lot more boring when everyone starts comparing palettes and then self-identifying as this THING. Then the system starts to reach equilibrium. Don’t reach equilibrium.

And as to the original question….sure, I’d go see Jawbreaker. It would (hopefully) be a good time. And a bunch of kids would get to see a rad band.

I was at a Blake solo show in Greenpoint at a few years ago. I felt like he was doing a Neil Hamburger-inspired piece of performance art where he knew all the audience wanted was Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil stuff, so he was purposely withholding and fucking with their expectations. In a world where people are so entitled and expect to get whatever they want whenever they want, I actually thought it was really cool. But maybe that says more about me than it does about Blake.

The cons? I don’t know if this is the strongest argument — given that pretty much anything before 1991 that isn’t “Want” or “Busy” I can essentially put in a drawer and pretend never existed — but I do feel like Jawbreaker are kinda unimpeachable. They were a band that so few actually experienced firsthand, that they have become this perfect, untarnished thing. It may be blasphemous to say, but to me they have always felt like pop-punk or emo’s answer to The Smiths. They are frozen in time through these perfect black and white pictures and timeless songs that people will never get sick of sharing or tattooing the lyrics to on their bodies.

Also, like The Smiths, they had a cult of fans (including dozens of much, much more famous musicians) who have kept the band alive during two decades of inactivity. I pointed this out to someone recently, but it still kind of blows my mind — Foo Fighters, Brand New, Rise Against and Fall Out Boy all covered them. Their influence, in terms of mainstream rock and mega-punk bands, is kinda ridiculous.

So that brings me to the pros. If they did come back, there would certainly be an audience — and, like Pavement or Refused, it could feel very contemporary and momentous. But to go back to the cons of this, if they did reunite for Riot Fest, they run the very real risk of reversing all of what I just wrote here.

I mean, if they just did a big festival run and packed it in, that would be incredibly uninteresting. And possibly damaging. I feel like At The Drive-In really did taint what felt like a respectable legacy by doing really mediocre festival sets that people somehow widely knew they were getting paid a lot for. I wouldn’t want to see Jawbreaker do that. I feel like they deserve the money. I feel like they deserve the audience of 10,000 people. But it could compromise something that, to me, is still very pristine.

But, on the other hand, I feel like that is an incredibly unfair thing to put on any band — and, if they truly want to do it (and, moreover, really need to do those big money shows to make it worth their time and mental investment), then who cares about silly things like “legacies.” Like I said, I am conflicted!

In a perfect world, I would love to see them come back and offer more to the world then playing “Boxcar” in the Sahara Tent. I would love to see them record the songs they wrote after Dear You that never got a proper release. As one of the eight people in the world who bought the forgetters album, I would also like to see them write new music because I think that Blake — even more so in his mid-40s — has an incredible gift that hasn’t fully been shared.

And, most of all, I would like to see them indoors because I think they wrote incredibly introverted music, and I don’t like eating churros in a soccer field that much. (That’s a lie, I do kind of like doing that.)

So I guess that my final answer is that I would like to see them do it — it just depends on how much thought they put into how they did it. And considering how thoughtful and intelligent their music was, I imagine they would handle it well.

See you in Chicago?

The Emo Council verdict?

While opinions swung wildly, everyone wants to see it.

See you in Chicago.

Next: Sunny Day Real Estate

Washed Up Emo

The home for emo, punk and post-hardcore music.

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A home for music of the late 90s, early 00s & 10s / Podcast / @IsThisBandEmo / #EmoNightNYC since 2011 / Emo Diaries alumni

Washed Up Emo

The home for emo, punk and post-hardcore music.