Indie purists reflexively moaned -- and, in one documented case, hoped for the band’s vehicular death -- once word spread of Jawbox's Atlantic deal. No band had left the sacred Dischord label for a major prior to Jawbox, so it was seen by some as an unforgivable crime against D.I.Y. The move, inconsequential from a creative standpoint, was the betrayed's loss. The band's first album for the bad guys represents their peak, a thrilling collision of vibrant guitar-generated noise and off-center melodic hooks over a rhythm section that swings as easily as it pummels. Not transitional merely in the label-of-release sense, For Your Own Special Sweetheart introduced new drummer Zach Barocas, whose intricate style is as punishing as necessary for any post-hardcore band while more inspired by jazz heavyweights Tony Williams and Jack DeJohnette than any punk. Kim Coletta’s bass, present enough in the mix to be compared to a variety of power tools, rumbles with a richness and dexterity that was only hinted at on the band’s prior releases, while the guitar interplay between Bill Barbot and J. Robbins, colorful and dynamic, alternates between ringing/tingling and needling/careening. This all produces an album that is heavy on songs that gracefully batter and flit unpredictably between mid-tempo and charging speeds. Whether pushed along by the addition of Barocas or the band’s general development, FYOSS also contains a pair of slower, subtle songs that are just as compelling as the aggressive material. Robbins’ lyrics, as cerebral and inscrutable as ever, and more about sound than meaning, are at least decipherable throughout the muscular, corrosive jangle-pop of “Savory” (about the objectification of women), the appropriately rush-inducing “Jackpot Plus!” (the futility of gambling), and “Motorist” (disorientation after a car crash, inspired by J.G. Ballard’s Concrete Island). Otherwise, a Jawbox decoder ring is necessary. (For example, a Jawbox-to-punk translation of “Technicolored static sender/Second guess my love for danger” could be “I’m a couch potato/Couch potato, ungh!”) More importantly, don’t forget to wear a neck brace. Inside or outside its D.C. epicenter, this is one of post-hardcore’s most exceptional releases, second to whatever Fugazi album gives you the biggest charge.
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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman