Jawbreaker

Dear You

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1995's Dear You finds Jawbreaker cleaning up and streamlining their punk-pop sound and coming up with a sleek, slick punk-grunge classic that relies as much on clever songwriting and restrained emotions as it does on the group's trademarked high-energy attack. From the opening chords of the anthemic "Save Your Generation," Blake Schwarzenbach's vocals are the star. He was coming off of throat surgery that robbed him of a lot of his vocal power but gave him a smoky intimate sound that gives the feeling that he is whispering right in your ear. On songs like "I Love You So Much It's Killing Us Both" or "Jet Black," he sounds wounded in a way that screaming could never convey. The album is a powerful mix of jumpy punk-pop like "Bad Scene," "Everybody's Fault," "Fireman," and the aching "Chemistry" and mid-tempo tracks like the amazing "Jet Black," "Million," and "Basilica that escapes being tied to the time of grunge-by-the-numbers by being melodic and heartfelt without going over the top, by being just punk enough to be real and just epic enough to rise above the often boringly earnest approach of too many punk bands. Along with Weezer's Blue Album, Dear You is one of the cornerstones upon which emo and late-'90s punk-pop were built. Certainly Jimmy Eat World wore out their copy, as Bleed American sounds like a less produced younger brother, and Dashboard Confessional's whole oeuvre sounds like a lesser version of Dear You's acoustic "Unlisted Track." Depending on how you feel about emo, there is either a lot to blame Jawbreaker for or be thankful for here. Either way, Dear You is one of the best rock records of the '90s and a fitting last testament to a great band.

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