Track This: Jawbox's "Cooling Card"
"Cooling Card" contains all the tricks that made Jawbox such an indie powerhouse -- interesting chord changes, J. Robbin's sputtering vocals, chiming guitars, and ever-cryptic lyrics. The lyrics are always filled with imagery, often obtuse or near impenetrable. Robbins begins the song with the lovely and poetic, "Fear as a friend I wish I never kissed / Fading hand to mouth as catalyst / Technicolor static sender / Second guess my love for danger / Bold-face it with a hand of 10 by 10" over chunky guitar chords, and the song only spirals from there.
Much of the fun of listening to Jawbox lies in trying to decipher the lyrics and marvelling at the band's near pop song melodies. At the time it seemed strange that they signed to a major label, Atlantic, before any of their fiercely independent Dischord label mates, yet listening now, with the hindsight of years, it is easy to see how they were snatched up in the post-Nirvana blitzkrieg. Intricate songwriting, impressive melodies, and a variety of styles are in the very DNA of their first major label record, For Your Own Special Sweetheart. Grippe and Novelty were both dynamic and ostentatious albums, but this is the first album that was recorded in a manner that really respected the different tricks the band had up their sleeve, thanks to Ted Nicely. A modern day Husker Du, perhaps, or just another good band that should have received the type of acclaim that helped Fugazi, or the Pixies, become a household name. They had the musicianship and the pop chops to do so.