Some early 90s punk rock now in my B100 favourite songs rundown, with the US cigarette referencing “Chesterfield King” by Jawbreaker.
A San Franscisco based punk trio whose influence has grown over the years, I first became a Jawbreaker fan with the February 1994 release of their third (and best) album “24 Hour Revenge Therapy”. Not really featured by the music weeklies over here, but a fairly significant name in the US underground scene then covered by Maximum Rock’n’Roll and other associated fanzines, the emotive vocals of frontman Blake Schwarzenbach and aggressively heartfelt melodic tunes made Jawbreaker an enticing punk package. Yet another band in my favourite 100 songs list with a Steve Albini connection, the cantankerous engineer recorded “24 Hour Revenge Therapy” at his Chicago studio.
And yet although “24 Hour Revenge Therapy” is by far my favourite Jawbreaker LP, my top tune “Chesterfield King” is actually not on that record. Originally released as the lead track on 1992’s “Chesterfield King” EP and later featured on that year’s “Bivouac” album (their second, after 1990 debut “Unfun”), “Chesterfield King” is the perfect epitome of what makes Jawbreaker so great: raspy storytelling underpinned by killer riffs, explosive hooks and powerhouse drumming…to create a tasty pop punk cocktail.
Jawbreaker only released one more album after “24 Hour Revenge Therapy”, their ill-fated major label debut “Dear You” in 1995. After the success of “24 Hour…”, plus an earlier stint supporting Nirvana on their 1993 “In Utero” tour, Jawbreaker signed to Nirvana’s label DGC to much disquiet and cries of “sell outs” amongst the hardcore underground. Fellow Bay Area scenesters Green Day had navigated the route to mainstream success from punk roots the previous year with 1994’s mega-selling “Dookie” – but “Dear You” had a distinct lack of winning tunes plus an incongruous gleaming production, with the result being an album that alienated previous fans while not picking up a sizeable new audience. After touring the album to sometimes overtly hostile crowds (a period covered well in the 2017 Jawbreaker documentary “Don’t Break Down”), Jawbreaker splintered and dissolved in 1996.
However, Jawbreaker’s popularity mushroomed over the years as a new generation of fans continued to discover them, especially as they were constantly cited as early emo-rock pioneers. Eventually, more than 20 years after they split, Jawbreaker reformed in 2017 to headline Chicago’s Riot Fest festival. More shows followed, including a European run in 2019. A sign of their increasing pull over the years is that I attended their previous London gig in October 1994 – which was in a tiny low-ceilinged basement of a pub near Mornington Crescent that I believe has since long been demolished – while their UK return 25 years later saw them play to a sold out Kentish Town Forum in April 2019. I wasn’t at that gig but did see Jawbreaker soon after for a decent slot at Barcelona’s Primavera Sound in June 2019, playing to a devoted crowd many of whom may not even have been born when “Chesterfield King” was first released – so viva la rock…!
VIDEOS AND OTHER STUFF
- Other great Jawbreaker songs include The Boat Dreams From The Hill, Outpatient, Condition Oakland, Jinx Removing, Shield Your Eyes, Want.
- Cementing its move into “classic album” territory, “24 Hour Revenge Therapy” received the 33 1/3 treatment in 2018, with Ronen Givoy’s book expanding beyond just that record for a wider look at the overall Jawbreaker story.
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