Jawbox’s ‘For Your Own Special Sweetheart’ Is a Goddamn Classic
The word "classic" gets thrown around so much lately. In the world of music, it's used in hushed tones and reserved for records like Pet Sounds, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Forever Changes. We say that is bullshit. While there should be a reverence for those albums, it’s equally as important to recognize the greatness that happens around us every single day. That’s why we're proposing the canonization of new records with our new series Goddamn Classic, which goes out and nominates records that may be off the beaten path, but deserve another look from the world. We've asked writers, artists and other notables to stand up and be counted, to defend the records that they feel haven't gotten their due. Today, we honor Jawbox's major label debut, For Your Own Special Sweetheart.
It happens to me whenever someone first sees my Instagram title (@jackpotplus). I usually get a “cool” and then a bit of a pause, followed by, “What does that mean?” The answer is always the same: “Do you know For Your Own Special Sweetheart?” To which their answer is almost invariably a disappointing “No.”
During the height of post-Nirvana ohmygodletssigneveryindiebandever, there were several bands from the hyper-fertile D.C. post-hardcore scene that were making serious waves. Two of those bands — Shudder to Think and Jawbox — signed major label deals around the same time. Shudder to Think were a bit too art-rock from my then feeble mind, one that would choose Minor Threat over David Bowie every goddamn time, but Jawbox were exactly in my sweet spot: sunny melodies, a hint of darkness, jangly guitar riffs, thundering bass tone and driving songwriting. Jawbox were — and are — one of D.C.’s best of the late '90s.
1994’s For Your Own Special Sweetheart is not only the band’s creative apex; it also happens to be their Atlantic debut. Consisting of 13 tracks, there isn’t a single low point on the entire LP: Sweetheart is 100 percent lean, mean, full-on songwriting perfection. The key to Sweetheart’s success is the juxtaposition of the sweet vocals of J. Robbins against the fierce post-hardcore instrumentation of the rest of the band. Sure, their only really successful single, "Savory," was a song that got more play by another alt-rock band (Far), but that doesn’t take away from the perfection of this goddamn classic.