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Jawbreaker was an American punk band from San Francisco, Californiamarker, from 1988 to 1996. The band also had roots in Los Angelesmarker, where members Blake Schwarzenbach and Adam Pfahler attended Crossroads High School together, and New York Citymarker, where Schwarzenbach and Pfahler met bass player Chris Bauermeister at New York Universitymarker in 1988. The band put its DIY ethos into practice by managing themselves.

Jawbreaker released four full-length studio albums between 1990 and 1995 as well as a number of EPs, 7 inches and splits. Even though they were signed to a major record label for their final album Dear You, Jawbreaker failed to achieve much commercial success during their years of recording and performing. The band split up in 1996 and members of Jawbreaker went on to form or feature in several bands since then. In January 2008, Pfahler announced that the band had recently reunited for an upcoming documentary.


Unfun (1989-1990)

Unfun, Jawbreaker's first LP was recorded in Venice, Californiamarker, and released in 1990. It is a combination of pop-influenced punk and DC-influenced hardcore. However, unlike contemporary "pop-punk", Unfun has a dark quality and a maturity emblemized by its literary aspirations. While many bands at the time were willing to settle for pat social commentary, Jawbreaker pushed its lyrics, emphasizing depth and resonance.

Brief hiatus and Bivouac (1991-1992)

Jawbreaker went on hiatus from late 1990 to early 1991 while members of the band finished college. Upon reforming, they relocated to San Francisco'smarker Mission District. Around this time that they began to gather a following at 924 Gilman Street, a Berkeleymarker venue. The band immediately began to write songs for a new album, Bivouac, which was recorded in 1991. The album was a sprawling epic—it featured slower, gloomier songs than "Unfun", as well as more complex arrangements. While the CD release of the album had its share of poppy moments the remainder of the album gravitated toward lush, dark songs punctuated by instrumental breakdowns infusions of call-and-response interplay among the three band members. Almost a period piece, the instrumentation and record quality has the watermark of late '80s/early '90s indie music. Largely, this was a very ambitious effort for the band and, unfortunately, according to many critics, largely fell short of its ambitions.

The vinyl release's track layout - as a whole - boasts a considerably darker demeanor than the CD version (which included the "Chesterfield King" EP.)

24 Hour Revenge Therapy (1993-1994)

Touring relentlessly in support of "Bivouac", Schwarzenbach's raspy vocal stylings finally caught up with him, requiring throat surgery. After Schwarzenbach's surgery the band recorded 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, released in 1994. The bulk of the album was recorded by well known indie producer Steve Albini (though it is officially credited to Albini's cat, Fluss). The liner notes to the "Etc." compilation, note that Albini charged the band $1,032 for recording the album.

Not only had Blake's singing become slightly less raspy on "24 Hour Revenge Therapy", but the band's songs had also become shorter and more imbued with a festive elation than those on Bivouac.

In the midst of the writing/recording process for the album, the band embarked on their "When It Pains, It Roars" tour. Growing criticism from core fans, especially after the band played a few dates in late 1993 with major label superstar Nirvana, left Jawbreaker disillusioned. 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is largely heralded as Jawbreaker's crowning achievement. Its songs encapsulate the range of emotions and specific experiences of many of the educated but working-class population that largely comprised Jawbreaker's fanbase.

Dear You and break up (1995-1996)

After the success of 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, Jawbreaker signed with Geffen Records and worked with producer Rob Cavallo, who had received acclaim producing Green Day's breakthrough album Dookie. Dear You was a stark departure from the harder edge of their earlier recordings. Blake's singing and the guitar sound were cleaner. Cavallo gave the album a "radio-friendly" polish their previous albums lacked. The band had mixed feelings about this new sound and major label atmosphere. Adam and Blake talked extensively about the benefits of self-managing their band and how major labels spelled financial death for many bands. Adam and Blake's views are epitomized in their comments in Maximum Rock and Roll's major labels issue.

Nevertheless, Blake has stated that this album kept the band alive, as they were on the verge of breaking up after 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. Despite a vigorous marketing push by Geffen, album sales for Dear You were anemic in the wake of a post-Green Day market and failed to come close to those of their previous albums. However, the album was a critical success, bringing Jawbreaker's artistic maturity to a new audience. In 2004, the members of the group reacquired the rights to Dear You and successfully put the long out-of-print album back into circulation with additional tracks, including a more polished version of "Boxcar", an interactive copy of their only music video ("Fireman"), and updated liner notes that include a picture of Kurt Cobain wearing a Jawbreaker t-shirt. Their hit "Bad Scene, Everyone's Fault" was included on EA Sports video game NCAA Football 06

After Dear You was released in September 1995, the band soldiered on for another year before calling it quits. One of their last tours found them opening for the Foo Fighters. A San Francisco stop on this tour is featured on their post-breakup release; Live 4/30/96. The LP version of the live album was a mail-order only offer limited to one hundred copies from Allied Records.

Post-break up (1997-present)

Singer Blake Schwarzenbach went on to form the New York City-based band Jets to Brazil, which has since broken up. Between bands, he found work as a freelance writer, even writing a few game reviews for GameSpot. He is now an adjunct English professor at Hunter Collegemarker in New York Citymarker. After a brief stint with The Thorns of Life, he is currently playing with forgetters.

Drummer Adam Pfahler lives in San Franciscomarker and currently runs Lost Weekend Video and Blackball Records, which primarily keeps the Jawbreaker catalog in print. He has played drums in Bay Area pop punk band J Church and played in Whysall Lane with Richard Baluyut, the lead singer for Versus.

Bassist Chris Bauermeister briefly played with Horace Pinker while he was working on a doctorate degree in History at Purdue. He moved to Olympia, Washington, where he played bass in the band Shorebirds with singer/guitarist Matt Cannino from the band Latterman. As of 2009, Bauermeister is in a new band with Cannino: Mutoid Men.

Rumored reunion

On January 3, 2008, Pfahler announced that during the course of filming a Jawbreaker documentary, the band played music together in private. These comments ignited rumors about a possible reunion. [101842] Pfahler had this to say:

"Yes, the documentary is still on, still being made. The hold up is that Keith and Tim have yet to find a distributor who is willing to pony up the closing costs to finish this thing (flights, editing time, blowing it up to 35mm. etc.). So they are doing this as a labor of love in between their regular gigs and family time. I trust this love bodes well for the finished product. A few months back they came to SF and we got some really great footage with all three of us and Billy Anderson (who worked on Bivouac, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy and a couple one-offs as a producer/engineer). We even played together, but didn't roll footage out of both respect for the sanctity of the moment and fear that we'd suck. Anyway, I have audio of it. Maybe I'll post that some day."

Musical style

Jawbreaker's music is characterized by raw vocals, a driving rhythm section, and grinding guitar—a mix used by many punk bands. Unlike most other punk bands, Jawbreaker delves into complex song structure, melody, instrumental interludes, and obscure sampled recordings. Jawbreaker's lyrics, written largely by Schwarzenbach, are imbued with a literary melancholy comparable to the work of early Charles Bukowski and late Anne Sexton. Jawbreaker's songs fuse personal longing with animistic fetishization of both public objects (boats and boxcars) and private (books and bottles). Many of Jawbreaker's songs reflect on post-college depression, social issues, and youthful aspiration.

Cult status

The band's cult status as the definitive nineties punk band has grown since its breakup. In 2003, a Jawbreaker tribute album, Bad Scene, Everyone's Fault, was released on Dying Wish Records, and featured covers by 18 bands including Fall Out Boy, Nerf Herder, Sparta, and Face to Face. Another tribute album, So Much for Letting Go, was released on Coptercrash Records. Chris Conley of Saves the Day has cited Jawbreaker as an influence on his writing. Jesse Lacey of Brand New is known to cover Jawbreaker songs such as "Accident Prone" in some of his concerts. Set Your Goals covered "Do You Still Hate Me" on a Bay Area punk compilation. Bob Nanna (Braid, Hey Mercedes) and Mike Kinsella (Cap'n Jazz, Joan of Arc, Owen) can be seen on Youtube performing duets of 'Boxcar' and 'Chesterfield King'. Author Dave Roche frequently cites Jawbreaker as one of his favorite bands. Bird flu phylogeographer Robert Wallace quotes a Schwarzenbach lyric on his website. A character in the punk rock webcomic Nothing Nice To Say routinely refers to Jawbreaker as one of his favorite bands. This character's name is Blake, and he seems to be modeled after Schwarzenbach. Jawfaker, an East Coast band, formed in 2006 to perform Jawbreaker songs live. Author Tao Lin references Jawbreaker throughout his novel Eeeee Eee Eeee, including multiple references to the song "Ache". Lagwagon also covered Jawbreaker's "Want," which can be found on their b-sides album, "Let's Talk About Leftovers." The Lawrence Arms and The Sour Notes have also been known to cover Jawbreaker songs, and cite them as an influence which is clearly evident in their music and lyrics. Comparisons have also been drawn between early Jawbreaker and Face to Face, who as mentioned above covered Chesterfield King on the tribute album and their own covers album Standards and Practices Ampere makes a lyrical reference to "Kiss the Bottle" in their song "Abject Failure". In addition, Rise Against has been known to cover "Tour Song" from time to time in various acoustic sessions (such as on Sessions@AOL). Alternative county band, Lucero, also cover the Jawbreaker B-Side, "Kiss The Bottle" both live and on record. The recorded version can be found on the Re-Issue of The Attic Tapes.


For all releases, see Jawbreaker discography.

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