For Fans Of
It’s been 17 years since the release of Glassjaw’s violent, aggressive and now lyrically controversial debut LP, ‘Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence’. We’ve now had over 15 years of 2002’s seminal‘Worship & Tribute’ entrenching itself deeper and deeper into the ears and hearts of fans around the world, percolating further into new minds and countless ‘best albums of all time’ lists ever since. It’s been seven years after the band’s damn fine collection of singles (eventually released under ‘Our Color Green (The Singles)‘) began to be rolled out and scratched that ever-growing itch. And it’s been six years since the stellar ‘Coloring Book’ EP proved that neither age, a lack of a label or any other factor could ever halt nor wither this band’s abilities.
So, to say that there’s a genuine legacy here to not only uphold but also protect and further is a gross understatement. Which is why I’m beyond thankful that Glassjaw’s long-awaited third album not only continues their established legacy in excellent form, delivers something that’s been missing in the alternative and heavy music scenes of late, but is also just fucking amazing!
Titled ‘Material Control’, the legendary New York group’s first full-length in 15 years exists at this glorious sweet spot between creating fresh new dynamics, moods and ideas for their esteemed catalogue, whilst also wonderfully recreating the very best sounds and approaches of their acclaimed past works. It’s a comfortingly familiar yet often different comeback album of the old and the new all at once; a consistent, meticulous, visceral and deep record throughout that’s a new classic in every sense.
Due to the lengthy gap in full-length records, the ever-present mystery of this band, their storied history as a collective, and the sheer hype for this release, there’s obviously a huge amount of fan expectation and weighty nervousness hanging in the air around this new 12-track record. After having received ‘Material Control’ on Monday and having it on repeat ever since, and after carefully thinking it over, I am so very happy to report that this third full-length from Glassjaw is every bit the terrific, expectation-hitting follow-up myself and countless others hoped it’d be.
Over their much-lauded career, Glassjaw have crafted some of the best songs of their respective era and scene. So hey, why would they stop now? Ergo, with ‘Material Control‘, like any and all great records, it’s made up great songs front to back.
Much like how the grimy and unmistakable opening riff of ‘Tip Your Bartender‘ quickly exploded into chaotic post-hardcore bliss during the classic opening seconds of ‘Worship & Tribute‘, this record’s opener ‘New White Extremity’ doesn’t fuck around either. This surging intro track announces that not only is ‘Material Control‘ going to be an immense experience that rewards repeat listens it also loudly states that Glassjaw are indeed back and that they’ve returned with more anger, finesse and burning inner-fire than ever before. Second song and the album’s lead single ‘Shira’ is the very best song that Deftones never wrote (just listen to its chorus that seems to be ripped straight from ‘Diamond Eyes‘-era Deftones) and it recalls the sound, delivery and tone of Glassjaw’s brilliant singles, ‘All Good Junkies Go To Heaven‘ and ‘You Think You’re (John Fucking Lenon)‘ – in the best possible ways, mind you. The very same goes for the shorter but overdriven and hooky ‘11 Days, 11 Nights‘, and this opening trio clearly dictates that Glassjaw are still masters at writing sensational songs with moving, effective choruses that stick to your soul like thick tar immediately upon first listen.
Then, from these killer beginnings, the darker and uncomfortable ‘Golgotha‘ (the place near Jerusalem where Jesus was supposedly crucified) channels a denser, jarring, and less instantly satisfying characteristic, but one that’s nonetheless still potent. ‘Golgotha‘ further adds to the sense that this release is not only the band’s heaviest album yet but also a celebration of Glassjaw’s many elements; not unlike a ‘Greatest Hits’ collection. This becomes even clearer when Glassjaw reign in their aggression and knack for non-stop energy, pounding drumming, fast-paced layered guitar work and frenzied vocals with the calmer ‘Pretty Hell‘ near the record’s mid-point. This is a quieter, darker lapse in the record’s tone and pace thus far, but is a necessary moment for the wider release overall. It’s filled with sluggish percussion, distorted bass lines, distant guitars and frontman Daryl Palumbo’s intimate, up-front croons that are borderline creepy but also sexy. A couple dozen times after hearing the song, I still liken ‘Pretty Hell‘ as being a twisted version of ‘Ape Dos Mil‘ or the long list evil twin of ‘Stations Of The New Cross‘, and no, that’s not a criticism at all.
The subtle droning feedback, echoing claps, and panned out percussion of instrumental tune ‘Bastille Day‘ builds up and smoothly flows into the dissonant riffs, bombastic drum fills and sheer sonic assault that is the Refused-sounding ‘Pompeii‘; a scathing, up-and-down dissonant post-hardcore tune about ego and destruction that could’ve only ever come from Glassjaw. Now, ‘Pompeii‘ is legitimately the one song here that I merely liked, instead of outright loved and even then, it’s a solid track! ‘Bibleland 6‘ (no points for guessing what that track is about) is another dense, slow-burning cut. Yet with its thick and groovy distorted bass lines, Justin Beck’s typical guitar fuckery throughout and with it displaying that classic Glassjaw dynamic of shifting between full-blown chaotic hardcore that threatens to run completely off the rails and their restrained melodic instrumentation and hooky refrains that are more about capturing a mood than general loudness levels, ‘Bibleland 6‘ becomes an instant highlight.
At this point, ‘Material Control‘ has been running on a huge fucking high, but it’s here that the record reaches its true pinnacle, for me at least. Case in point: the rapid ‘Closer‘ echoes the brisk and galloping pace of older siblings like ‘Radio Cambodia‘. Yet the band takes that idea even further down an intensive rabbit hole full of relentless guitar lavishes, fast and punchy rhythms throughout, insane drumming, super-charged choruses, all with Palumbo offering some of his best vocal performances since ‘Pink Roses‘ and ‘The Gillette Cavalcade Of Sports‘. (Granted, the dude is a god behind the microphone; whose vocals just ooze personality, heart and character so that was no surprise). One of my personal favourite songs here – among the constant standouts this record produces like its fuckin’ nothing – is ‘My Conscience Weighs A Ton‘. Another shorter cut, with melodic guitars and soothing vocal parts and an ear-worming chorus that expertly devolves into a solid, blistering hardcore mid-section, ‘My Conscience Weighs A Ton‘ is up there with Glassjaw’s best songs; both of the present and those of the previous decade.
From the booming kick drums and delayed snare hits of the brief, penultimate title track interlude – which even sees the band sample the bridge section from ‘All Good Junkies…‘ – the record arrives at its closing track, the venomous and hateful ‘Cut And Run‘. While perhaps a fitting title what with it’s sudden and abrupt end after only two minutes of runtime, this is a nice little cap off for Glassjaw’s latest opus. Though it’s not quite the perfect end I feel, as there just feels like there is still another song or two missing to fully close the album out in the truest sense. Maybe that jarring sense of one not getting closure is intended (it wouldn’t surprise me at all, honestly, given the band that made this incredible record) but even then, it all feels a little anticlimactic. Which is a shame, as ‘Cut & Run‘ is a damned good song, but now it’ll be forever somewhat marred in my mind as the “incorrect” or “wrong” album ender.
Anyone who’s listened to Glassjaw’s music, even if they downright hated it, will still most likely tell that the band are talented and are solid musicians. Which I think would be the case here, as the band are on top of their performance game.
Justin Beck’s guitar work has never felt lacking on a Glassjaw record, nor is that the case with this third LP. It see’s the core band member shifting between dissonant leads, pedal-effected loops, brutal metal chugs, short but sweet melodic licks, and all manner of intricate subtlies and noises that sit between the opposite extremes of Glassjaw’s various light, intermediate and heavy shades. Not only that but with the guitarist also tracking the gnarly, distorted bass for this new record, the tones and instrumentals gel even more perfectly together. Likewise on the rhythm section, with The Dillinger Escape Plan soon to be closing the final plage on their illustrious career, TDEP’s drummer Billy Rymer has already started to move onto other roles, tracking drums for ‘Material Control‘ as one such example. And my god, Rymer was practically built for Glassjaw’s talents and overall vibe well behind the kit. Elsewhere, as I briefly touched on before, Palumbo’s vocals are as soulful as ever, his screams are just as sharp and as piercing as we all expect, and his lyrics are as cryptic, varied in themes and as layered as many gleefully anticipate from a Glassjaw album.
Again, this really is a Glassjaw album.
The title of ‘Material Control‘ is a little ironic as not much about it was in the band’s control, what with it originally planned as a surprise release. With the original idea being to mail fans box sets containing playable flexi disc “postcards” as a thank you; addresses compiled by Beck’s merchandising company, Merch Direct. But then Century Media let the cat out of the bag by accidentally leaking the album’s title and tracklisting on Amazon two weeks before its release. (Wouldn’t be a Glassjaw album without some label bullshit, would it?). But really, who cares that much about the fuckups and all the other peripheral noise? Because, at the end of the day, a new Glassjaw album is here. I mean, it’s actually real, goddamnit, and that makes me happier than you could ever know. More so than that, and to repeat my own self from some 1,000+ words earlier, it’s also just fucking amazing!
It’s only December 1st and even in these final moments of 2017, we’ve been gifted with yet another brilliant release to add to our yearly album lists before this year fully closes out: Glassjaw’s ‘Material Control’. The hype is real – this album was worth the wait and then some!