The last time Glassjaw released an album an unpopular Republican President was riding roughshod on civil liberties, punk was being bought out by big brands, and music itself was in a crippling state of flux.
Not a lot has changed in 15 years, then. New album 'Material Control' impacted as 2017 blinked itself shut, with the initial digital launch sending fans into a frenzy.
For a brief, glorious moment, it seemed as though nothing had changed - Glassjaw ignited each song with a passionate anger, a desire to sidestep any rule or convention placed in their way.
Dannii Leivers pens a few words on why Glassjaw still, absolutely, rule...
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For the last decade and a half, being a Glassjaw fan has been a frustratingly bittersweet task.
When the seminal post-hardcore band first went on hiatus in 2004, they left behind a legend in progress, two albums and a reputation for incendiary, albeit rare, live shows which were often cancelled, rescheduled then cancelled again due to frontman Daryl Palumbo’s struggles and frequent hospitalisations from Crohn’s disease. Their fan base was left hankering for more and in that void, the band's mythology took hold.
For the next 15 years, our hopes of a third album were kept alive by line-up changes, sporadic EPs, whispers and rumours. To put that into perspective, it took Axl Rose less time to drop Guns N Roses' famously delayed ‘Chinese Democracy’. Waiting for that ever elusive third album has been part of our job description. Then out of nowhere, earlier this month the seminal post-hardcore band finally released ‘Material Control’. The album we thought would never happen, happened.
To understand the tangible impact and influence of Glassjaw you need to consider the context. The band was founded in 1993, in Long Island, by long-time friends Palumbo and guitarist Justin Beck, emerging from a New York hardcore scene that had already spawned luminaries Quicksand and Burn.
But it wasn't until 1999 that the band stepped into the studio with producer Ross Robinson to record their debut. At the time, nu-metal was beginning to wind down and Robinson, who had worked with genre frontrunners Slipknot, Korn and Limp Bizkit, was craving a more cerebral challenge.
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The albums he made with Glassjaw, ‘Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence’ and ‘Worship and Tribute’, are lauded as landmarks of the genre.
Today they've spawned so many watered-down copyists that it's impossible to imagine just how unique the band's debut sounded on its release. There was nothing else like it. You could argue that Glassjaw's second album, ‘Worship And Tribute’, was when the band hit their stride. It was certainly the moment that their maturity caught up with their musicianship.
On ‘Silence...’ Palumbo, in chronic pain and in the bowels of a brutal breakup, sobbed, screamed and regurgitated his guts with some wholly unacceptable lyrics about how much he hated his ex. In recent interviews the band have apologised for those lyrics, admitting that they “deserve scrutiny.”
‘Worship...’ stripped away the misogyny but not the emotion, it's a broodier, slicker and more accomplished record that contains some of the band's best tracks (‘Cosmopolitan Blood Loss’, ‘Pink Roses’, ‘Ape Dos Mil’). But despite the offensive lyrics, ‘Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence’ is rawer, uglier and bloodier, my favourite of the two. On ‘Siberian Kiss’, ‘Ry Ry's Song’ and ‘Majour’, instruments shifted out of step and back in sync with each other.
Beck's unpredictable and texturally complex guitars clashed with Deftonian ambience, oblong jazz and abrasive dissonant melodies. Palumbo, a man who can do Mike Patton-esque things with a larynx, held everything together with his barely controlled vocals. Together, the band sounded like they were trying to hammer a jagged shape into a circular hole.
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With that in mind, it's easy to forget, although the UK always embraced the band, in their home country Glassjaw only ever achieved moderate commercial success. In 2007 Daryl spoke at bitter length about the band’s battle for wider recognition, telling Rocksound “No one gave a fuck about my band. Two hundred people would come and see us at most back home and we got fed up with it. But people made it into a legend.”
Now it's hard to separate that myth from reality. But put either of the band’s full-length records on now, or their later EPs ‘El Mark’, ‘Our Color Green’ and ‘Coloring Book’, all of which pushed their immersive, fearless template even further, and musically they sound as electrifying as ever. It's the sound of a band rewriting the rule book without even being aware of it, a million miles ahead of their time.
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'Material Control' will gain a full vinyl release this month.
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