To be honest, I’ve not always been a Glassjaw fan.
This might be a strange way to start this post, but I thought it would best to be honest from the start on this article. When I first heard Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence, it left me feeling cold. I don’t know if I was jaded at the time, maybe I was just sick of anything produced by Ross Robinson. Due to this, I also let Worship and Tribute pass me by as well, due to the RR name on the production credits, so Glassjaw became a bit of a non-entity for me.
At this point, after a messy divorce from Roadrunner records following Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence and stop/start/stop promotional work for Worship and Tribute (mainly due to Palumbo’s health as he suffers from Crohn’s Disease (not pleasant on anyone)), the band seemed to drift from public life. They released a few singles here and there, an EP came out and a live album too. There were also a few shows, but my interest was still not there with this band.
If it wasn’t for some of Daryl Palumbo’s other bands, I might not have come back to Glassjaw at all.
For me, Head Automatica was everything that Glassjaw were not – bright, brash, colourful, not full of angry angst and just a pop/rock bomb of joy. To me personally, it’s the best combination of rock, indie disco, OTT lyrics, power-rock to come out of the Emo era. There was just a spark of fun that I loved, it was so different to everything else I was into at the time, sometimes you need something colourful, bright and carefree.
Color Film is another project that he has been running, which is a throwback to the 80’s and has a Duran Duran/David Bowie feeling. That project has just released its debut album Living Arrangements on Epitaph record this year. I’m still making my mind up about this act, but I am enjoying what I have heard so far.
The thing that ties all of these acts is Daryl Palumbo, he is the lynchpin to all.
As a frontman, he’s always been interesting to see in interviews or on videos. From an outsider, Glassjaw always seemed to be on the verge of greatness, only for health, line-up changes, label issues, or other circumstances to stop them. Whilst they were not my own personal cup of tea, I can always appreciate a band that puts in the effort, so it seemed sad that history was gonna label this band an “also-ran”.
So, why in the blue hell am I reviewing the latest Glassjaw release?
Well, I always think that you should give any band another chance, just for consistency if nothing else. A lot of my friends kept going on about Glassjaw, and it has been so many years since I have heard them, so why not? My tastes have changed, so I might actually get it this time.
So, a little background to the release of Material Control; following a few years of relative inactivity Glassjaw released “New White Extremity” on 1st December 2015, this was the first song off the album and their first new music since the 2011 Coloring Book EP. Then, on 15th November, Amazon dropped the ball. They accidentally released the pre-order for Material Control, so everyone knew it was coming. The album was released two years to the day the “New White Extremity” was released, and to say that it has been anticipated by their fans is an understatement.
What Glassjaw have done with Material Control, is give me a headache.
Let me explain here, for the best part of the year, I have had a rough idea how my album of the year list was going to turn out. It is very spikey and noisy, I am not going to ruin it here, but I was almost ready to commit it to text and all that jazz. Material Control has smashed that apart with relative ease, it is the best release Glassjaw has unleashed. Over the course of twelve tracks, Material Control (and Glassjaw) pretty much makes me eat anything bad I ever said about them, and makes me say I am very sorry and throw me into the sand as well. So, it’s given me a headache that way.
Considering that this album was only written by two men (Palumbo and Guitarist/Bassist Justin Beck), there is an intense, focused feeling to the album. There is a vision being shared and apart from hiring Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Billy Rymer to mercilessly beat the shit out of his drum kit, there are only two other people who guest on the record – George Reynolds who gives his vocals on “Pompeii” and Ariel Telford who performs percussion on “Bastille Day”. After all the countless line-up changes, there is a focused unit at the core of this album and it makes for a better experience.
So, am I converted to Glassjaw?
Well, yes and no – to be honest, this could be just a one-off for me, I won’t fully know until I go back to their earlier releases. But it has perked my appetite for Glassjaw somewhat, especially the first four songs of Material Control. It is straight out of the gate, a full-on Hardcore nirvana experience (the mythical state, not the band). It does not let you rest and it sounds brutal as hell, just what you want from a Hardcore record.
But whilst time will tell on my thoughts on Glassjaw, my gut reaction to Material Control… I really like this album, I mean I REALLY like it! It sounds like controlled fury, an explosive torment unleashed on the world. It’s the only thing I have listened to for three days straight, I am sure it’s given me nightmares as well as the end of year migraine, as far as my record of the year is concerned. I will be revisiting Glassjaw’s previous releases, just to see if I have changed my mind on them. Well played Glassjaw, well played!
Material Control is a late contender for album of the year, a dynamic release that reintroduces Glassjaw to a new generation of people.
Rating: 4.5/5 – Oh, I think I’m having an accident
Top track – Take your pick, but I am currently running high on “Shira”