forgetters – forgetters
by Kyle Risley (Marketing), published January 11th 2013
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
Expectations can be a bitch, especially if your name is Blake Schwarzenbach. After fronting the seminal west coast punk band Jawbreaker for the front half of the 90’s and inspiring a generation of aimless, romantically wronged guys to air their grievances on tape as loudly as possible (see: your high school CD collection), he left for Brooklyn to form Jets to Brazil. Both of Schwarzenbach’s projects fused crunchy guitars with equal measures of gloomy introspection and smirking observation mixed with varying degrees of distortion. forgetters marks the first full length release overseen by Schwarzenbach since Jets to Brazil parted ways nine years ago, with only a brief tour and a 2009 7” in between to hint at the contents. The results are mixed, but the record’s high points ultimately outweigh the misses.
forgetters is a varied exploration of punk and its tangential sounds accompanied by a world-weary narration. No longer as overtly heartbroken, anxious, or bored as in the past, Schwarzenbach delivers his tightly knotted verses with a steely, pissed off confidence that adds a sting to each line. That’s not to say he’s hopeful (in fact, he’s “sick with the truth”). So forgetters, if not a plan for changing the world, may be one for simply coping with it. The record maintains a certain rawness for its duration, as if it had been recorded in a single take. Thick, meaty guitar tones and Schwarzenbach’s baritone delivery are heavy artillery, while apocalyptic samples act as buffers between firing rounds. For the most part, Schwarzenbach’s trademark heart-on-sleeve writing style has been traded for a more obtuse, cryptic approach, begetting multiple listens. Fortunately, his deliberate delivery adds emphasis and sentiment, but it’s a trade off that leaves a negative balance on a few tracks.
The slow burning “Strike” opens the record with a stew of slowly marching guitar chords and understated synths that buoy a critique of American individualism. 24 Hour Revenge Therapy it ain’t, but I guess nothing is more punk than bucking expectations. “Lie Artist” piles on heaps of noise, while the politically-charged “I’m Not Immune” finds Schwarzenbach’s signature black humor hitting its stride (“I bear good news: we’re going to die pretty soon and then this inkless plot will be effaced”). The post-punk “Hoop and Swan” and “O Deadly Death,” glistening with major chord choruses and words of yearning, will be welcomed with open arms by any fans of Dear You. “Die By Your Own Hand” recalls Jets to Brazil ballads and is guided effectively by Schwarzenbach’s deadpan delivery.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to say whether forgetters will resonate with those that are not already indebted, personally or professionally, to Schwarzenbach’s back catalog. Stripped of that history, the record is a bit of a one trick pony. Where Schwarzenbach falls flat, the band struggles to pick up his slack and any effort can seem misguided. forgetters is not an embarrassing release–far from it–but it doesn’t fire on all cylinders either.