For the last couple of May 4ths, I’ve taken to Facebook, the mildly popular website that totally hasn’t eviscerated any significance from social activism and everything you post there matters, and posted videos by the cult pop-punk trio Jawbreaker in lieu of posting something about the Star Wars franchise. Some of my critics may call this elitism engendered by my preference for 90’s guitar-and-bass-based music largely by and for lonely white people over any real science fiction film franchise, and I would say… “yeah, but…”
Let me get anyone (who isn’t immediately ensnared) on board. May 4th is a typical day in the Roman Calendar, except every year, this prelude to Cinco de Mayo gets hijacked by Star Wars nerds and dilettantes (or some combination of the two), appropriating the phrase most beautifully uttered by Sir Alex Guinness (on shitty VHS, preferably), “May the Force by with you” into the phrase “May the 4th” and so forth.
In 1995, the San Francisco-based trio Jawbreaker released their major-label debut (and final) record Dear You, containing a song entitled “Sluttering (May 4th).” I imagine that the singer/guitarist/American-Morrissey-analogue Blake Schwartzenbach has explained the significance of the date in the title to innumerable reporters, but what matters here is that nerds 20 years later can take it and run with it, straight onto the gauntlet of social media.
Being a fan of the group, I choose to use the date as an excuse to throw some of Jawbreaker’s music out into the ether rather than perpetuate this idea of Star Wars as cultural bastion. It doesn’t need any more help. For thousands of people who profit off of the Star Wars franchise, every single day is Star Wars day. If people stopped buying anything connected to Star Wars, there’s no telling how deep those economic wounds would go. If people stopped buying Jawbreaker records… well, who the hell knows. I imagine that Schwartzenbach, Chris Bauermeister, and Adam Pfahler would have to dig into those savings accounts a bit more than usual, and maybe the executives at DCG’s parent company Universal would have to dig into their consistently not giving a damn about any listenable artist that their subsidiaries ever signed. Nobody would be out of a job, is what I’m saying.
Anyway, in a conversation with my ex-girlfriend on this date a couple years ago, explaining why I told Facebook that I was going to celebrate Jawbreaker Day by smoking Chesterfields and talking with homeless women (she wasn’t mad because she knows me well enough to know it’s always some obscure music reference), it hit me just why (other than sheer whimsy) Jawbreaker deserves this holiday. While George Lucas has done almost everything in his power to destroy everything good the franchise ever stood for, Blake Schwartzenbach has avoided the pitfall of the inevitable reunion tour/album and keeping Jawbreaker’s legacy as intact as possible.
To paraphrase our President, let me be clear: reunion tours are not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve fallen in love with so many bands that had long-stopped existed before I got into them (or even before I was born), and in my adulthood I’ve fooled enough people into giving me money in exchange for labor in some form (surprisingly, legal 99% of the time) that I could spend on these reunion tours. Dan Ozzi, one of my favorite assholes on the internet, rightfully blasted these reunion tours in a column for Vice, imploring people to, rather than spill $294854 to see the “Replacements” (i.e. Paul Westerburg and Tommy Stinson playing old songs with Josh Freese on drums), spend their hard-earned money on finding the next Replacements. There are too many bands breaking their backs out there, and who knows if that band playing the shithole in your town for $5 this week will one day be commanding $300 for an overcrowded set at a bloated music festival in 25 years? All good, these points.
That being said, getting to see Pavement reunite in 2010 was one of the greatest shows I’ve ever attended, seeing the Dead Milkmen even in their middle age has kicked ass every time, I got to see Mineral reunite in 2014, I’m planning to see American Football at some point, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop me. For those of us who weren’t THERE (or weren’t cool enough in middle or high school to get invited to see these bands), reunion tours are a wonderful enterprise, and I’m sure they help the artists afford college for their now-17-year-old kids. Supply and demand. Capitalism makes sense sometimes (if only sometimes).
Now, what does this have to do with Jawbreaker? Well, the band has been deluged with reunion requests pretty much since they broke up twenty years ago. It has almost reached punchline-level how much people have been digging for this; there’s even some band that named themselves ‘Jawbreaker Reunion’ after some joke that Ozzi made in his twitterachter @Jadedpunkhulk (FOLLOW HIM). This whole thing has been exacerbated by a near-reunion that happened in 2007. My knowledge of the details is scarce, but photos exist of rehearsal sessions between the three members that just didn’t come to fruition. And, learning what I have about this band since then, I’m incredibly grateful that it didn’t.
See, the reason that Jawbreaker shouldn’t reunite is because the people who were “there” back in the day treated them like shit and DON’T DESERVE TO SEE THEM AGAIN. From what I understand, Jawbreaker elicited hatred and “sellout!!” unlike almost any band has in history upon signing with the major label; kids would sit down and turn their backs to the band when they played songs off of Dear You. Not only was this a snide, asshole move (it was, and still is, one of the best pieces of music that DGC released in that era), but why would it not surprise me if at least some of these kids would day grow up, move out of their parents’ houses, realize that – wait for it – money is necessary for survival, and experience an all-too-brief moment of regret for attacking this band for accepting a big wad of money while being on the verge of breaking up?
End on end, Dear You was essentially what would have happened if Miranda Hillard had said “yes” to a family vacation instead of asking Daniel for a divorce at the beginning of “Mrs. Doubtfire.” It was that baby that so many married couples have to save their obviously-doomed marriage that ends quickly anyway. Jawbreaker was not long for this world, and despite the passing fancy of “maybe if we’re a major-label band making major-label money we’ll figure out some way to keep doing it” idealism, Dear You did nothing to stop the inexorable march of personal and artistic (maybe? I wasn’t there) differences among the band.
So, I feel like using May 4th to celebrate the fact that Jawbreaker were a great band and chose to remain a great band by not giving into the same jerks who spent the whole Clinton era second-guessing their every ethic. Every week, in my head, Blake Schwartzenbach gets some email from some 30-year-old that sounds like this:
ROBBIE MANCHILD: “Hey man! Uh, so, have you and the other guys been talking? I mean, the guys in Jawbreaker. You know, Chris and Adam? Is there any chance you’re going to be playing Coachella next year? My friends and I sorta have this bet going about which band is going to reunite, and it’d be really cool to be able to see you play the songs I love from 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. I had a band in high school and we used to cover “Boxcar” – I got demos lying around if you still want to hear it- uh, so any chance on this?”
BLAKE: ….. [DELETE]
Meanwhile, over at LucasArts, George Lucas gets another email from his corporate overlords:
RICH WHITEMAN: Hi, Mr. Lucas. The other executives were complaining to me about the lack of quality in the hookers we pay to service our stupid lifeless dicks every payday, so we think we need to upgrade to some higher-grade hookers. Any chance you could sign off on another line of dumbshit t-shirts?
GEORGE LUCAS: You got it!
Meanwhile, over at Schwartzenbach’s apartment in Brooklyn (or wherever he lives now):
BILLY SUBURBANKIDWHOSEPARENTSWERETOONICE: Hey, Mr. Schwartzenbach! I really love your music. I mean, I’ve never listened to anything beyond Bivouac, cause… you know. But can Jawbreaker play at this DIY festival I’m organizing for this spring? You guys are welcome to stay in my mom’s basement, we got a bunch of couches down there. I hope you 1) are the exact same person, age and all, that you were 20 years ago and 2) can hook that up. If there’s someone else I should contact, please let me know. Jawbreaker rules!!
BLAKE SCHWARTZENBACH: …. [CRIES INTO HIS “SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO” TATTOO AND DELETES]
Meanwhile, at LucasArts:
MONEYBAGS MCGEE: Hey, Georgie Boy, we got your nephew locked up in a dungeon, and if you want to see him again, we need to get finer coke! How’s about a new Star Wars line of action figures? Except one without that chick character cause that’s just gross, bro.
LUCAS: I love everything you say and do! YES!
Happy Jawbreaker Day, everybody. Here’s a grainy picture of me with Adam Pfahler, for no apparent reason. If you have a chance to see his new band California, do. They’re great.