In a mood tonight I angrily washed dishes, with loud music blaring. I do this sometimes, as I’ve mentioned.

This time, Jawbox. For Your Own Special Sweetheart. I own many, many CDs. I have many that I haven’t listened to in a long while. I don’t remember the last time I played this one. Holy crap. It’s so good. As I’ve said (twice actually, getting forgetful in my old age) in comments here before, Jawbox features in one of my best music related memories. That’s one thing I got.

I also got the word “reified” from them, the song “FF=66” though I didn’t know what it mean. I knew it sounded smart. I remember looking the word up in the fancy dictionary my parents had bought along with the set of encyclopedias (remember those?) and it wasn’t in there. It definitely sounded like a real word and not like gibberish, so I thought maybe it was a problem with my dictionary. I asked my high school English teacher. She was smart, she knew about stuff. She’d never heard the word before. (She also didn’t know how to pronounce “Derrida”, the name came up in an essay at the back of a critical edition of Heart of Darkness which included an introductory essay on deconstructive literary criticism, it was cool that she admitted that.) I remember being impressed that Jawbox knew a word like this, that my teacher and dictionary didn’t know. Years later when I read Lukacs for the first time I remember thinking “whoa that’s from that song!” I think that also gave me more patience with Lukacs than I might have otherwise had. I’m not sure about that, though.

I think I got a certain musical sensibility from Jawbox too. Not just from them, but they were a big part of it. I like the dissonance. I like the moments when there’s a lot going on, and the two singers thing so that it’s impossible to really sing along with it. The overwhelmingness, kinda. I like the use of what are in many respects ugly chords but in ways that can resolve in ways that are pretty. And some of the parts are really pretty I think, the music and the vocal harmonies. I think Jawbox is the first or certainly one of the first bands I liked at least in my musical adolescence that I would say they had pretty parts. And the dynamics … I love the changes, the starts and stops, the ways stuff resolves, or doesn’t.

I was a very angry young’un, the harshness of some of the sound appealed to that, but it was also a smart controlled sound. Not flailing and accidents but decisions.

I loaned Sweetheart to a musically inclined friend once, another punk rocker, who gave it back saying it was terrible, all just noise. That same quality to me was connected to a sort of sense of wonder. I have no problem with the use of effects in guitar driven music, or any other music – it just expands the palette of available sounds, but I really like when bands can get cool stuff without using effects (other than distortion). It’s a simple artistic principle, limit the range of options then combine them to novel effect. (Part of how languages work as well.) I remember many times thinking “how did they make that sound?” and hearing bits that sounded like they shouldn’t make sense, like they didn’t make sense, but that somehow the band made them make sense together with everything else going on in the song. I still love all that when I hear new bands.

Heart Jawbox.

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