When it was originally released in 1995, Jawbreaker’s Dear You shocked a lot of people. The band didn’t change its sound or shift its lineup — the four-piece simply signed to a major label, Geffen, for its fourth full-length. The move created a rift between the band and their fans that was so great that it spread to the band, which split up a year after its release. Dear You was supposed to be the album that spread Jawbreaker’s snap crackle pop-punk to more than the privileged few, just like Green Day before them, but nothing of the like happened.
At the root of the album was Jawbreaker streamlining itself. There wasn’t a change in sound or subject matter, but with a larger budget, the band spent weeks instead of days in the studio. Despite the initial backlash for an album that whittled down the band’s rough edges, time has healed all wounds with Dear You; it’s now considered among the band’s best work, and among the best rock records of the 1990s.
“Fireman,” the album’s lead single, cracks with all the same pop-punk spark that ignited the band’s earlier songs. Its frank depiction of lost love and obsession could easily set singer Blake Schwarzenbach up as that creepy guy who sits alone at a bar, watching all of the single women. But with lines like “Dreamed we were still going out/ Had that one a few times now/ Woke up to find we were not,” chances are some of those women are his lost loves that pine for him as much as he pines for them.
In “Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault,” those uncomfortable moments post-break-up are considered again, with Schwarzenbach running into an ex at a party, musing, “How could you do this?/ You said that you needed your space/ He’s wearing the shirt that I gave you.” His ability to capture these picture-perfect moments of awkwardness is what pushed to Jawbreaker to the upper echelon of the punk scene, and it’s one of the things that’s kept them there eight years after the band’s dissolution.
Tacked onto the end of the re-issue are five bonus tracks, including a Psychedelic Furs cover (“Into You Like a Train”), a live recording of the quintessential “Boxcar,” and the excellent “Shirt,” which was mixed by J. Robbins (ex-Jawbox, currently in Channels).
Despite the album’s production values, Dear You is no different than any of the previous Jawbreaker albums. The band may have been a little older and a little wiser, but it was the same band that we all knew and loved. Major label or not, these songs are the group at its purest, ripping and tearing at every piece of pain inside of you. The fact that it took so long for people to realize that this album is as poignant as the rest of the band’s output is a shame.