Recently resurrected, Jawbox are another of those ’90s post-hardcore bands (along with onetime label-mates Shudder To Think, Helmet, and others) to make a successful leap from an indie label to the majors.
Not that they sold out. This single from their final, eponymous album is a prime example of their gift for songs which are accessible without any suggestion of trying to be. Compare Mirrorful with, say, Grip from their very first album six years earlier and you’ll see what I mean. They were always naturally catchy.
Jawbox released two albums on Dischord Records, before a move to Atlantic during the mid-90s alt rock boom. Singer and guitarist J. Robbins went on to form Burning Airlines (whose track Pacific 231 is transcribed here), as well as Channels and others. He has also produced records for bands including Shiner and Clutch. As of 2020, Jawbox have re-formed and touring.
Anyway, let’s get on with it!
From a guitarist’s perspective, many of Jawbox’s songs can be deceptively hard to figure out and play. That’s partly because, like Chavez, they’re not a “riffs band”. Their compositions tend to make full use of two guitars, to the extent that neither one can convincingly carry the song alone.
Tonally, Jawbox are fairly typical of the time and the genre: primarily Telecasters and Marshall JCM 800 half-stacks. Any bright-sounding guitar into a Marshall-style distortion will do the trick.
We start out with a couple of dissonant dyads, with a good bit of heavy vibrato. You need a fairly loose, up-down picking motion here to contrast the sharp downstrokes when we resolve into lush, staccato Csus2 chords. The second guitar thickens things up with simple 5ths.
Just one guitar here. Basically we’re playing fleshed-out, arpeggiated versions of the shapes from the intro. The second verse uses the same shapes, but notice the rhythm is slightly altered.
Now our two guitars diverge into contrasting single-note patterns, building tension, and nearly resolving on an F#5 before heading into the chorus.
Again two different parts, though now playing different voicings of the same idea. Again, a fairly loose approach works well here. For instance, when he’s bending that C# I’m pretty sure he occasionally catches the F# underneath it too.
Star out with a slightly tricky arpeggiated version of those verse chords, while the left-hand guitar chugs along with some ascending 5ths.
Then we build further tension with some gloriously dissonant minor 2nds, before another chorus.
Simple but effective descending figure. Though the individual notes are split between the two guitars, it has the effect of fuller chords and can easily be transposed into one part if needed.