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Friday, November 16, 2012
From 'Head First' to forgetters


Mat Hoffman's "Head First" (left) and the new album from forgetters (right).

Blame this one on Eddie Roman. Maybe put Mat Hoffman in there too.

In 1991, BMX video producer Eddie Roman partnered with Hoffman to create a legendary video known as "Head First." At the time, BMX was amid a serious recession that upended brands and left sponsored pros scrambling for full-time work. A handful of pros managed to squeeze by on salaries that consisted of a few hundred dollars a month. Tires became hard to come by.

But by the final section of "Head First," none of that mattered. Hoffman and Roman had resurrected BMX riding, and proved that it couldn't be brought down. It was in fact progressing at a faster rate than VHS videos of the time could keep up with. And it contained a soundtrack that became the focal point of BMX contests and videos for years to come, including the Washington D.C. band Fugazi and a little known band from California called Jawbreaker.

Jawbreaker began in the late '80s and pioneered a brand of emotionally-based punk that introduced the world to the talents of guitarist/vocalist Blake Schwarzenbach. Lyrically, he battled depression, break-ups, the usual fodder for punk kids in their teens and twenties. But he went a step above and beyond, introducing topics such as lost love and desolation into story lines that traced simple relationships up and down suburban streets and in and out of 7-11 parking lots. He brought romanticism to punk songs.

Jawbreaker lasted a decade, broke up in 1996, and their music went on to appear in a New Jersey video called "Don't Quit Your Day Job." Schwarzenbach had, by then, influenced a generation of listeners, and gained a resolute following. He went on to front the N.Y. band Jets To Brazil, and again, his words and music could be heard in BMX videos such as Props video magazine. Jets to Brazil lasted three albums, ending in 2003. Schwarzenbach turned his back on music, sold his guitar and started teaching at Hunter College in New York.

Sometime in 2009, a live set from a band called The Thorns of Life appeared online. It was Schwarzenbach fronting a new three-piece, in a route that was slightly more Jawbreaker than Jets To Brazil. The band imploded soon after, but the MP3s released were enough to hold the devout fans of Schwarzenbach over for a few years.

Schwarzenbach retooled, recruited new members and carried a few Thorns of Life songs over into his latest project, forgetters. They released an EP over a year ago, and earlier this week, finally got around to releasing a full-length album, almost a decade after the end of Jets To Brazil and 16 years after the end of Jawbreaker.

It's not Jawbreaker or Jets To Brazil, nor should it be. It's Schwarzenbach growing into mid-life with a new perspective on life and music, and if we can navigate through the murky waters of music licensing circa 2012, I hope to hear it soon in a BMX video.

forgetters is available in the iTunes music store.