Blake Schwarzenbach studied English at New York University, and after his punk trio Jawbreaker collected their diplomas and moved west, he became something like the poet laureate of the Berkeley punk scene. (On “Chesterfield King,” from the band’s 1992 album, Bivouac, the narrator runs away from a girl he loves and winds up in a 7-Eleven parking lot giving a toothless woman a dime and a cigarette: “She leaned down and kissed my cheek / I was scared but it felt sweet….We sat and smoked against the wall. Drank a beer, felt the chill of fall.”) Jawbreaker made their major-label debut on DCG in 1995, did the usual indie-rock soul searching, and split up the following year, leaving Schwarzenbach to form the more angular Jets to Brazil with drummer Chris Daly and bassist Jeremy Chatelain. When the trio stopped in at the Fireside this summer, they were playing the bony guitar rock of their debut, Orange Rhyming Dictionary, but on their masterful new album, Four Cornered Night (Jade Tree), they’ve added full-time guitarist Brian Maryansky and guest cellist Amy Domingues, and Schwarzenbach plays a good deal of piano. The song structures are more relaxed, the melodies more inspired, and after the blurry, sometimes opaque lyrics of the debut, the new songs are rich with simple, moving observations. In the bopping “Air Traffic Control” a passenger fretting that his plane will go down writes to his loved one (“It’s hard to fly / If you don’t believe all the time / I know I sometimes let you down”), and “Pale New Dawn” is a parade of cold crystalline images (“They give you a food stamp / For the air sucking wound in your chest / All the best, all the best”). On “All Things Good and Nice,” the gentle piano ballad that concludes the record, Schwarzenbach enumerates all the people he loves and why, from his family to his bandmates, then ends with a benediction to the listener: “I love you stranger though it might not always show / There’s a lot of good in you I know.” Schwarzenbach is a rarity in pop music–a writer old enough to have learned his craft but still young enough to entertain giant questions. This all-ages show, with Jimmy Eat World and Turing Machine, is sold-out. Sunday, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Tim Owen.