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Jets to Brazil
There's a big difference between selling out and growing up. Unfortunately for the pop-punk band Jawbreaker, fans didn't see it that way. Their final album, Dear You, shed the gravel-laden vocals and hard-edged power chords for richer melodies and progressive instrumentation. The trade-off killed the group. Admirers called "sellout" while the band rebelled against expectations with songs like "Boxcar," which lashed out at narrow-minded punk audiences. What fans forgot is that although Jawbreaker had ditched its punk sound, the songwriting ability and pop orchestration were the real appeal all along.

The same assets that made Jawbreaker such a likably charged outfit are intact in singer/guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach's latest incarnation, Jets to Brazil. Their debut, Orange Rhyming Dictionary, is an energetic mix of catchy pop hooks, punk sensibilities, and, more important, maturity. On the opening number, "Crown of the Valley," Schwarzenbach begins with a swaggering guitar lead that is kicked along by polyrhythmic drumbeats. Before the song gives way to the full chorus he drops the guitar into a minimalist drone, leaving only the drums to carry the track. The overall effect is a suspenseful prelude to the full rush of the chorus. It's precisely the type of experimentation attempted on Dear You, except back then Jawbreaker was tied too close to a punk audience for that to work.

With Orange Rhyming Dictionary, Schwarzenbach sounds completely at ease. The pop flourishes -- the harmonic guitar intro on "King of Medication," the intricate melody of "Conrad," and the heartfelt acoustic guitar of "Sweet Avenue" -- seem natural and intuitive, making Jets to Brazil a fine example of what good comes when punks grow up.

-- Robert Arriaga

Jets to Brazil open for the Promise Ring on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 14 & 15, at 9 p.m. at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Knapsack and Jimmy Eat World play first on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. Tickets are $8; call 621-4455.

 
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