In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.
The words of singer-guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach are the primary reason Jawbreaker earned a place of honor in the Pantheon Of Emo. As a writer, Schwarzenbach can be sentimental without being syrupy, emotive but never histrionic—he uses plainspoken language to convey the profound. Those skills created some of Jawbreaker’s most memorable songs, but his perspective didn’t end when Jawbreaker broke up in 1996. When Schwarzenbach re-emerged with Jets To Brazil in 1999, the voice remained, even if the sound of the songs shifted.
Portraits of failed or failing relationships have always been Schwarzenbach’s forte—see Jawbreaker’s “Do You Still Hate Me?,” “Ache,” “Sluttering (May 4th),” and the tellingly entitled “I Love You So Much It’s Killing Us Both”—and Four Cornered Night, Jets To Brazil’s uneven second album, begins with another tellingly titled song: “You’re Having The Time Of My Life.” A million songs have been written about regret and relationships, but a giant gulf separates something like Cinderella’s “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” and Schwarzenbach’s sharply written self-indictment.
The details make the Jets song stand out. It opens with a hypothetical future meeting, where this ex has “become a stranger again,” narrowing her gaze in his direction when she sees him “across the room of drunken revelry.” The song’s standout line arrives in the second verse: “When you say my name to me / Like some amusing piece of food between your teeth / Then I will know it’s completely over.”
It’s a funny line that characterizes the bouncy, light-hearted verses, but the song does a 180 in its choruses. The staccato guitar chords shift into two wistful notes chiming over a four-note progression, and Schwarzenbach sings the song’s refrain/statement of purpose: “There are things I’d like to say / So many things I’d like to change.”
And that’s really what it all comes down to: the acute pain of realizing you fucked up and that it’s too late to make amends. The song closes with a typical bit of wish fulfillment, imagining how events would proceed differently if he “had another last chance, and we met again for the first time”: “I would listen to your heart / I would start back at the start / There are things I’d like to say / So many things I’d like to change.”
With that, Schwarzenbach added another great broken-hearted song to his pile of them, and gave bummed out dumpees everywhere something to play on repeat while feeling sorry for/hating themselves. The greatness of “You’re Having The Time Of My Life” transcends all that, but it’s a punch in the gut all the same.