As frontman for early-'90s punk band Jawbreaker, Blake Schwarzenbach was an innovator of sorts. The cult-favorite Jawbreaker was like a more modest Hüsker Dü or a positive thinker's Replacements. For punk-reared high school and college-aged introverts, the band was a vital link between the indie and punk scene of the '80s and the punk-pop explosion to come. Schwarzenbach's current outfit, Jets To Brazil, is the planet's greatest example of that peculiar strand of Sunday-morning emo that perpetually documents --with awe and unremitting nostalgia -- punk rock's transition into adulthood. In other words, they're Jimmy Eat World with more gravitas and without the T-and-A MTV clip.
Jawbreaker made a few subcultural classics (and lent local band Lucero one of their finest songs in "Kiss the Bottle"), but Schwarzenbach's finest moment is Four Cornered Night, Jets' 2000 punk departure, an often piano-driven collection that at times sounds like a post-punk Pet Sounds in the way it maps out the romantic travails of early adulthood with both palpable longing and a remarkably light touch. It's a record with a disarming sincerity easy to mock if it weren't so utterly convincing. Courting disaster at every turn, Schwarzenbach sometimes sounds like a reformed punk kid who's been turned on to All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and Chicken Soup for the Soul, but he walks the tightrope between sentimentalism and soulfulness with stunning aplomb.
The band's latest, the solid Perfecting Loneliness, is a little more conventional but still marked by the little dramas and offhand epiphanies that Schwarzenbach's songs seem to be constantly discovering. And the central persona is still the same: downbeat but generous and hopeful, lamenting lost love and (more subtly) lost youth with self-awareness and affection.
For this week's Memphis appearance, Jets To Brazil will be paired with a local band whose frontman's band-to-band evolution has been similarly fruitful -- ex-Grifter Dave Shouse's Bloodthirsty Lovers. This great indie-rock double bill happens at Young Avenue Deli Wednesday, October 23rd.
-- Chris Herrington
It's one of those rare and wonderful weeks where there is more good music to be heard than time to check it all out. For starters, The Iguanas, New Orleans' party band of choice, will be playing Automatic Slim's Tonga Club on Friday, October 18th, but that's just the appetizer. On Tuesday, October 22nd, a quartet of Jersey-born cutie-pies known as The Lascivious Biddies will bring their jazz-infused crooner-pop to Murphy's, of all places. Their sophisticated take on jazz standards like "It's Only a Paper Moon" is rivaled only by their take on jazz standards-to-be like the Go-Gos' "Head Over Heels." There may be a certain tongue-in-cheekiness to some of the cabaret-style numbers they perform, but the Biddies are no joke. It's your grandmother's music, redesigned to suit your modern needs.
Speaking of your grandmother's music, the most excellent Kay Kay & the Rays will be making with some old-school soul at the downtown Huey's Sunday, October 20th. But for my money, the two most exciting shows this week are both at Young Avenue Deli. First up, Saturday, October 19th, Memphis' Snowglobe is playing with the amazing St. Thomas, featuring members of Neutral Milk Hotel and the Olivia Tremor Control. St. Thomas' first album sounds like Neil Young & Crazy Horse performing an homage to Neutral Milk Hotel's masterpiece In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. As if things couldn't get any better, The Warlocks (whose brand of psychedelic rock may be the best since the Flaming Lips got all serious on us) will cast their spell at the Deli Monday, October 21st.
-- Chris Davis