By Jeffrey Deiss
On Feb. 15, legendary Long Island post-hardcore band Glassjaw released their Coloring Book EP on streaming services.
I was beyond excited when the band announced this on Feb. 4. When I was a freshman in high school, I developed an absolute obsession with Glassjaw’s music. I ritualistically listened to their 2002 album Worship and Tribute on the bus to cross country meets. I intentionally took the long route to school so I could blast Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence.
For those that don’t know, Glassjaw was one of the heavy hitters of the late 90s/early 2000s post-hardcore scene. Their sound sits somewhere between the nu-metal of Deftones and the art punk of bands like Refused and At the Drive-In, with some dub influence for good measure.
Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence was their blisteringly angry debut. And when I say angry, I mean ANGRY. Frontman Daryl Palumbo would absolutely shred his vocal chords, lamenting over his struggles with Crohn’s disease and lashing out at unfaithful lovers.
Their next album, Worship and Tribute, was a far more nuanced affair. Glassjaw incorporated urban rhythms, dreamy guitar effects and cryptic lyrics. Gone was the relentless anger of their debut. Glassjaw established themselves as true innovators in the genre. Worship actually reached #82 on the Billboard 200, an impressive feat for some Long Island punks.
And then… almost a decade of silence. Well, mostly silence. Glassjaw still toured off the strength of their early material. But it took until 2011 for the band to give us two EPs – Our Color Green and Coloring Book.
Coloring Book remains the softest, most textured and most unique album of the bands career. With its arrival to streaming services, now the general population can experience it.
I’ve never heard anything quite like Coloring Book. Guitarist Justin Beck forgoes drop D power chords and instead picks up a baritone guitar. He plays this guitar more like a synth, building layers of texture (listen to the solo section of “Stations of the New Cross”).
The rhythm section has never been more reggae influenced. The bass and drums play hypnotic polyrhythms while Beck builds layers of guitar. “Vanilla Poltergeist Snake” begins with a barrage of off-kilter percussion and fuzzed-out bass. It sounds like a machine malfunctioning. “Black Nurse” and “Gold” are similarly propelled by Durjah Lang’s relentless drumming.
And then there’s Daryl. Instead of screaming his brains out like on their earlier work, he opts to whisper and croon over the wall of noise the band makes. I suspect he’s probably burned out his vocal cords from years of relentless touring. Nevertheless, he can still hit dramatic high notes on songs like “Miracle in Inches.”
The last song, “Daytona White,” is possibly the most eclectic song the band ever recorded. Daryl harmonizes over a jazzy drum beat and an electric piano. As the song progresses, the textures get fuzzier, building to a climax of swirling vocal effects and distorted percussion.
Glassjaw is a criminally underrated band. They don’t get the credit they deserve for influencing an entire generation of artists. Title Fight, La Dispute, Every Time I Die, letlive, Fall of Troy and Protest the Hero owe a lot of their sound to Glassjaw.
Glassjaw holds a special place in my heart and I’d love to see them get more exposure. If any of what I wrote intrigues you, I recommend listening to Coloring Book now.