Blake Schwarzenbach Day

A love affair usually starts with some harmless flirting. A bold move. Three shades of justification and an unhappiness at home.

For me, it started with an album.

I wasn’t always a word guy. I read a lot, but I didn’t feel any real emotional connection with words, never considered actually stringing anything together, creating, emoting. Words were great, but they weren’t inspiring.

And then, just like that, I was inspired. A love affair blossomed. The album was Jawbreaker’s Dear You. The affair was with Blake Schwarzenbach’s lyrics.

After listening to Dear You all the way through for the first time, I started to keep a list of great song lyrics. This was in high school. Without surprise, I discovered that 80% of the lyrics I had written down were from that Jawbreaker album. Nearly everything else paled in comparison. The list was abandoned for lack of competition.

I’m surprised how often I forget about this. I’m lured down new avenues by new bands, treated to a great hook, surprised by a brilliant lyric. I’m bombarded by songs I should like, and often I convince myself that I actually do, that they match up to the stuff I’ve always enjoyed.

And then, just like that, life snaps back into focus and I come back to that Jawbreaker album. To Jets to Brazil. To Blake Schwarzenbach. To a writer that I consider one of the best ever – my favorite lyricist at least, and an underrated talent in creating heartbreaking and tragic turns of phrase.

When it comes down to it, Blake’s lyrics were instrumental in my becoming a writer. Sure, I was driven to write by more than a simple punk lyricist – but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t inspired by his wordplay. It shapes a good chunk of what I write today. Not to cheapen his writing, but everything was constructed to be memorable, to be clever in a way that all copywriting aspires to – each lyric was a headline, each song a brochure, each album a sales piece for his life, the longing, tragedy and happiness. Moods were swayed. Lives changed. People smiled, knowing a master of the craft had just convinced them that, yes, life sucked but, yes, there was hope.

Once every few months, I find myself writing love letters in my head to Blake’s lyrics. They’re overwrought with sappy idol worship and jealousy and disconnected from reality. At these times, I turn up the music and just sing along, knowing that my lot isn’t to recreate that which can’t be recreated. My lot is to take the inspiration and run with it.

I can’t convince you to take up a Jets to Brazil album and instantly fall in love. It’s difficult to explain why a person’s words can be so exciting and brilliant without simply experiencing them yourself. And I’m not so naïve to assume everyone’s tastes are like mine. But find a few songs from Jawbreaker’s Dear You, or Jets to Brazil’s Orange Rhyming Dictionary. Download “The Frequency,” an epic Jets to Brazil song. See if you can locate what it is that I find so electric. Let me know what you think.

Because it’s Blake Schwarzenbach Day at BMOWP. And this love affair doesn’t seem to be winding down any time soon.

“They’re playing love songs on your radio tonight/I don’t get those songs on mine.” – “I Typed for Miles,” Jets to Brazil

This was lovingly handwritten on March 6th, 2008