Orange Rhyming Dictionary
By: Eric G.
After Jawbreaker sold out with its fourth and final album, Dear You, the band quickly dissipated in the wake of the ensuing backlash. Jets To Brazil is ex-Jawbreaker guitarist/vocalist Blake Schwarzenbach's new lease on life. Rounding out the trio are bassist Jeremy Chatelain, formerly of the New York City hardcore outfit Handsome, and drummer Chris Daly of Texas Is The Reason. Jets To Brazil avoids any immediate similarities to its former bands, particularly Jawbreaker, but Schwarzenbach's voice is hard to disguise. His throaty, guttural scream was Jawbreaker's main attraction even though it almost cost him the use of his voice, which in turn caused the unwelcome change in direction on Dear You with its obvious radio friendly production and lighter singing.
Orange Rhyming Dictionary embraces aspects of pop punk without pigeon-holing itself with its use of catchy melodies and stop/start dynamics. The melodies aren't the easy singsong type that Jawbreaker embraced on albums like Unfun and 24-Hour Revenge Therapy. Schwarzenbach's sense of melody has expanded beyond what the pop punk kids are so eager to cling to, which may cost him the immediate acceptance of that fickle genre, but when those kids grow out of that phase they will surely be coming back to this record.
J. Robbins, formerly of Jawbox, gives this album a slightly experimental feel with his studio trickery. The vocals are very loud in the mix- another element that will put off many of the punk kids who are bound to give this album a listen just to see what Schwarzenbach's new band sounds like. The guitars are gritty and avoid the overuse of cliched power and octave chords. The band's dynamic range is impressive for its debut album- just compare the immediacy of a song lie "Crown Of The Valley" with its catchy hooks and surge of tainted guitars to the keyboard-enhanced morosity of "Sea Anemone."
On the downside, some of the songs about midway through the album seem to drone on too long (too many breakdowns that don't build back up), but that lag is more than made up for by the last few tracks, particularly "Lemon Yellow Black" and "I Typed For Miles", which display a confidant understanding of effective structural breaks and changes. Schwarzenbach's lyrics have evolved with his songwriting craft. The direct address approach he copped with Jawbreaker is replaced with literate stories of disenchantment, boredom, and self-loathing: "They're playing love songs on your radio tonight/I don't get those on mine/you keep fucking up my life" ("I Typed For Miles"). Orange Rhyming Dictionary deliberately avoids easy categorization so that a false standard isn't applied to its sound because once you say you're punk you're a sellout if you don't adhere to its boundaries.