Jawbreaker Reunion aren’t asking for much. Maybe to be taken seriously despite their goofy band name, a mission the Band To Watch has more than accomplished since the release of their 2014 debut. Their sophomore record, haha and then what ;), is filled with similarly reasonable requests: “All I wanted was the bare minimum,” they implore on a track of the same name. They want to be loved not just when they’re alone, they want to be loved more than a song. A lot of the album deals with the transactional economy of affection, whether it’s wrapping our self-worth in the gaze of someone else (“I feel okay with myself only when I’m laying next to you” on “Your X“), or giving too much or too little at not the right time (“Scare You Off”). Even the winking come-on of the record’s title hints at an exchange with expectations based on nothing. The trio doesn’t approach this give-and-take cynically, but rather matter-of-factly: Relationships can be toxic, but you need to find what you can personally take from that connection and grow stronger from it.
The frenzied and gleeful moments that made Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club such a blast come few and far between here, probably because those moments come less and less often as the drudge of life starts to set in. But when the band does return to that fire, it’s ebullient and well-earned: Think the angry fuck-you of the last verse in “Patches” (“The nausea in my stomach is more feeling than you ever, ever gave”), or the kiss-off final chorus of “Lakeland”: “I don’t care if I ever see you again, and if I do I know I won’t remember when!” One of my favorite tracks is the short and sweet “High Beams,” which finds excitement in the little moments, like having fun in a car with your best friends, and expresses that giddiness with some communal yips.
That feeling of inclusion and positivity is the takeaway from haha and then what ;) for me. It rightly and justifiably takes people to task for engaging in imbalanced relationship tactics, but also holds out hope that there’s someone out there for each of us that can make things work. Look no further than the inspiring “Cosmos” for proof of that. JBR may not be asking for much from anyone, but they sure do give a lot. Listen below.