For the past three years, I’ve been listening to glassJAw fairly obsessively. They were one of my favourite bands as a teenager, at a time when I thought music was my oxygen – my reason for living. Coming back to them as an adult, and as someone who usually only listens to music as background noise, was at first a nostalgic whim – but it turned into a savour.
I took my first solo trip abroad just before my 25th birthday. Since then, I’ve travelled across Europe exploring new countries and cultures. However, thanks to health problems coupled with a persistent anxiety, I’ve grown more and more fearful of each experience. By the time I was due to visit Budapest, Prague and Vienna in 2016, I felt (literally) sick with worry.
In preparation, I decided to make myself a ‘power playlist’ – a compilation of music that would make me feel optimistic and brave whenever I was feeling anything but. On the nine day trip, the only artist I listened to was glassJAw. Every song sent a surge of empowerment through me; I felt not just able to cope, but able to enjoy the experience. Every time I have listened to them since, I’ve felt that same emotion.
I now spend several hours a week listening to them. It’s not always on trips, nor when I’m feeling anxious. Sometimes I’ll just lay on my bed, or go for a walk, or sit in half-lotus on my yoga mat, and play an album or EP from start to end. My mind anchors itself to some aspect – the lyrics, the bass lines, the way the instruments seem to both jar and meld together – and for those few minutes, I feel good. When the music ends, I feel like I’m a stronger person.
A bit of background on glassJAw, then. They formed in 1993, releasing first album Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence in 1999, followed by second album Worship and Tribute in 2001. They took a break before coming back with Our Color Green (a singles collection) and Colouring Book (an EP) in 2011, with drummer Durijah Lang and bassist Manuel Carrero leaving in 2015 to be replaced by Chad Hasty and Travis Sykes respectively. A third album, Material Control, was released in 2017.
The band are often described as ‘hardcore’ but have become notoriously difficult to define and compare. Their sound is noted for what I’ve tried to describe above – the seeming irregularity of the components that somehow creates a perfect harmony. Their touring schedule is sparse; but when they do perform, they create a powerful live show.
Lead singer Daryl Palumbo has Crohn’s disease (hence the band’s limited ability to tour). I’ve long mused over whether my feelings towards glassJAw’s music, and the effect it has on me, is connected to Palumbo’s experience. But in all the times I have listened to his voice, I can’t remember an instance when I thought of his body and not of his talent. So no; there is something else to this man, this band, this music, that moves me.
I’m not sure how many more weeks or months or years I will continue to listen. Maybe tomorrow it will stop. Until then, though, I have what everyone needs – that source of support, an escape, a way to feel normal again. It’s comforting to have rediscovered a part of my past that has benefited my future. It makes me wonder what else I might have already seen, heard or experienced that I can draw on again. Time will tell.
PS: You may be wondering why ‘glassJAw’. For a time, the band and their fans spelled it this way. Not any more, it seems, but it’s something I’ve always copied and liked. It’s become part of my ritual. My worship. In tribute.