TNF Presents: The Beginner’s Guide To Glassjaw

To say Glassjaw is one of the most important post-hardcore bands of the last 20 years is not an understatement. Rarely can any band in the genre go 15 years without releasing a full-length album and still sound relevant, but Glassjaw did just that with the December 2017 release of Material Control. While many of the band’s diehard fans have likely been listening for many years, it’s certainly possible there are newcomers to the band as well. That’s why we’re opening up an occasional new series, “The Beginner’s Guide To…”, where we highlight essential bands in the scene, their history, evolution from album to album, and other assorted events that would interest someone new to said band. Of course, our first one is Glassjaw who, while only having released 3 full-length albums since 2000’s Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence, have remained a driving and influential force into what modern post-hardcore sounds like.

Formed in 1993 in New York, Glassjaw’s early days involved playing a ton of local shows and generally being a major player in the burgeoning New York hardcore scene, along with established bands of the time like Quicksand (who helped set the tone for the direction Glassjaw would eventually go musically). Though the band recorded a number of demos in their first years of existence, it wasn’t until the release of their debut EP in 1997, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, that the fast-rising band released a proper album.

Fast forward to 2000, and the Ross Robinson-produced full-length Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence shows itself. Known for producing legendary nu-metal albums from Korn, Deftones, and more, EYEWTKAS was a different challenge for Robinson, who eventually went on to produce seminal albums from At The Drive-In and Blood Brothers as well. The album was a highly influential one to almost any modern day band like The Used and Finch, with sharp, unrelenting aggression from vocalist Daryl Palumbo, and ferocious drumming from CIV’s Sammy Siegler. The best lyric on here? Probably this one from album standout “Lovebites And Razorlines”: “I don’t give a fuck about your dignity, that’s the bastard in me.” That’s to say nothing of the opening one-two punch of “Pretty Lush” and “Siberian Kiss”, which easily rank as two of the most scathing post-hardcore songs ever written.

2002’s Worship and Tribute was the band’s true breakout. A more experimental piece than their previous work, their willingness to toy with the sound they had already established was apparent on their huge single “Ape Dos Mil” – a melodic, slow-paced track unlike anything Glassjaw had done before. It also came complete with an explosive chorus that any band would have killed to write. Yet, it also felt comfortably familiar, especially on songs like the abrasive “Pink Roses” and the rousing album opener “Tip Your Bartender”. Also, “Stuck Pig”. You’re moshing.

Having released just three EP’s in 2005’s El Mark and 2011’s Coloring Book // Our Color Green in between full-length albums, the tracks contained on these two EP’s were no less influential or profound. Wondering just what kind of music inspired tracks like the viciously heavy yet dynamic hardcore bludgeoning of “You Think You’re (John Fucking Lennon)”? New York hardcore, baby.

Material Control, which finally surfaced in December 2017, was more than worth the wait for long-time fans. Bass, drums, and guitar to the front, while vocalist Daryl Palumbo’s vocals were often drowned in reverb. This doesn’t necessarily sound like a great formula, but it certainly was here. Riff-heavy songs abound on Material Control – the one-two punch of “New White Extremity” and “Shira” are appropriate album openers – but it’s tracks like the adventurous yet compact “My Conscience Weighs A Ton” that contain the most urgent and dense tones of the band’s career. Then you have left-field tracks like “Bibleland 6”, which show Daryl Palumbo at his breaking point in regards to religious upbringing and hypocrisy.

Kick over the statues
You’ve prayed away one million nights
Termites choke on a splinter
The wiser saves yours and takes mine

Glassjaw, in their 25 year history, have always been about pushing the envelope – then tearing it apart on their own terms. What other band could go 15 years without releasing a full-length and remain just as relevant? The list is very small. Acknowledging Glassjaw is in a league of their own, though, isn’t tough to do.

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