Jawbox For Your Own Special Sweetheart
Jawbox’s third album, For Your Own Special Sweetheart, was labeled a sellout by many punk purists upon its release in 1994. And in a sense, it was: The band let Atlantic Records water down the mix and release the album in a significantly tinnier, compromised form that hewed closer to the alt-rock production values of the ’90s. But Jawbox was never an alt-rock band; its previous full-lengths came out on the stridently independent label Dischord, and Sweetheart became one of the essential building blocks of post-hardcore. History has vindicated Jawbox—and now, the reissue of Sweetheart does the same for the group’s crowning achievement. Beefed up with three bonus tracks and a hefty remastering job courtesy of Shellac’s Bob Weston, the disc punches and pulses like never before. Jawbox’s strength was always J. Robbins’ ability to stick unrepentantly poppy vocal hooks over fractured, aggressive guitar noise; with that noise far more potent and prominent in the mix, Sweetheart more tensely straddles the line between melody and dissonance, between comforting punk rhythms and alienating algebra. Clean-cut and disciplined yet perversely chaotic, Jawbox never really had a chance of breaking into the mainstream in the ’90s. At least the reissue of Sweetheart gloriously restores one of that decade’s most lasting, magnificent discs.