For Your Own Special Sweetheart

Earlier this year, when word of its re-release floated across the typical channels, I’m willing to bet that anyone with an old copy of For Your Own Special Sweetheart gave it a spin (or five). I make this assumption because Jawbox’s fans, for good reason, are not likely to be a patient bunch after what the decade has brought. Not that it’s been entirely bad—but nearly every notable band of the last 20 years has had its albums reprinted, remastered, re-released and re-idolized. Meanwhile, Jawbox’s well deserved tenure in the sub-limelight weirdness that was the post-Nevermind era of modern rock seems to have faded completely from memory. All of that being said, I think it’s fairly obvious why the desire for Jawbox’s master brand of melodic and cerebral post-hardcore would be a matter demanding immediate response.

In a twist of fortuitous irony, the re-release of the 1994 album that had the band jumping ship from Dischord to Atlantic Records is now an independent affair. In fact, the album is being reissued by the band members’ Desoto label by way of Dischord’s distribution. Indeed, all is right with the world once again. Legendary Bob Weston was given the noble task of cleaning up the already honed artistry of the album. From the crunchy fireball of an opening track, “FF=66” to the extra goodies at the tail end of the release, it’s clear that Weston’s work was a success of the highest sort. The tracks have the crisp clarity one always hopes to hear in a re-release of such magnitude. Not that the songs need it, but the sense of newness in the mix brings a sense of vindication to any enthusiast who has sat around arguing about how this DC quartet never got its due recognition from a scene that has yet to outperform it.

While many are likely to bask in the glory of the personal and cryptically poetic grooves of “Cooling Card” and “Whitney Walks” or bathe in the cacophony of blistering guitars on tracks like “Reel” and “Breathe,” but I fear this release shares a similar fate to its first run. Jawbox’s downfall is also its highest virtue: the complexity and purity of the music is the sort that spawns good taste and value. Put simply, while everyone who likes anything about any modern rock genre should go out and buy this near perfect artifact, so few will do so—probably in favor of a flavor of the moment that can’t hold a match to Jawbox’s For Your Own Special Sweetheart at its weakest moment.
Phil Goldberg