Many people consider Dear You to be a perfect record. I'm not one of them, and I'm a Jawbreaker fan, too. Nope, I'm one of those finicky kids that thinks they hit their stride around the time that 24 Hour Revenge Therapy was released and that a major label budget nearly ruined them.
I never said that, while imperfect, Dear You isn't an excellent record. To deny the greatness of songs like "Accident Prone" or "Jet Black" this late in the game would be foolish. But the snubbing of the record upon its initial release is understandable, given context. Back in 1995, punk rockers turned their backs on the band for a variety of reasons, which are all certainly valid, considering the context. Gilman Street heroes swearing off corporations and major labels signing a million dollar contract is certain to piss off your fanbase, but to not only jump ship to a major, but then quit writing punk songs and start trying to be a normal rock band? No wonder the punk rockers stayed away from this one in droves.
But now, the world is different. It's 2004. Nearly ten years have passed. Those who've wanted the record enough to seek it out have done so, and an entire legion of indie rock kids has been passing around dubbed tapes and burned CDs of that legendary record. Every group of kids has the one older friend cool enough to own this and spread it around once the primal scream of "Bivouac!" has worn out its day. And just as those tapes and CDs are beginning to wear out, Blackball Records, owned and operated by Jawbreaker drummer Adam Pfahler, has been kind enough to reissue the record, and throw together some extras as well.
First off, the meat of the record: well, what more can be said at this point? This is a pretty solid record by a band that was going a little studio crazy, but otherwise, it's great. "Save Your Generation" still sounds like an urgent call to arms, if it involved those arms being set down; "Fireman" is up there with Hum's "Stars" as the greatest single to never get any sort of recognition at all; "I Love You So Much It's Killing Us Both," "Chemistry," and "Million" are all solid rockers with above-average worded sentiments of twenty-something angst and anger toward those affectionless among us; "Accident Prone" and "Jet Black" still make me want to curl up into the fetal position with them on repeat; "Basilica" is still the saddest and possibly most morbid love song ever penned; and everything else in between deserves your rapt attention anyway. While not the genre defining statement of near-perfection that its predecessor was, what Dear You lacks in energy it makes up for in risk. No punk band had gone to a major and actually done something with the money before, moving beyond their means to try and produce something outside the guidelines of the punk community, and this record does that in spades. Breakneck tempos have been dodged for atmosphere and screams have been replaced by melodies and sung, discernable words. Blake Schwarzenbach was also at his confessional peak on this record, going places with his songs that few other lyricists had yet to go, which was into the specifics of their own day-to-day existences and dredging up what they found there. Certainly it inspired legions of copycats and blatant rip-offs, but this was the first time it had been to such a large extent. This is a great record, and it needs to be available for those who want to hear it, at least so the kids will understand what all the hoopla was about back in the day.
So I guess that leaves the extras, which is the falling point of the record, when viewed on their own, which thankfully, most won't have to. "Shirt" is the only thing that's new here, and it's worth it. Possibly the height of the slightly aggressive chorus and ultra melodic chorus mixed with Blake Schwarzenbach's dark poetry, this might be the quintessential Jawbreaker song. "Sister" and "Friendly Fire" are also worthwhile additions to the Jawbreaker catalog, the cover of the Psychedelic Furs' "Into You Like a Train" is also interesting, but the major label budget of "Boxcar" remains as pointless as it was on Etc, the band's rarities comp, which is the reason these extras fall short. Of the five songs added on, only one is new. Those of us who already own the original of Dear You and Etc are essentially paying $14 for "Shirt."
But this is simply minor in comparison. The greatness of the material as a whole makes up for the fact that it can be accessed elsewhere. If that point were to be held against the record, then there's no point in buying anything, as pretty much it's all available on the internet anyway. If you already own Dear You, chances are you own Etc already anyway, so steer clear of this reissue and download "Shirt." For those of you without it, however, consider this the same as if it was still in print: make 24 Hour Revenge Therapy your essential record by the band, but make sure to own this as your Jawbreaker Record #2. Less than must-own, but certainly more than the historical artifact it's been made out to be by this point.
8.7 / 10
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