Fresh Outta B-Town: JAWS
I’ll be honest. I’m not a proud ‘Brummie’. I hate the term and the fact that every single person I’ve ever encountered, upon discovering where I’m from, will do the same god-awful ‘Burminum’ impersonation and giggle to themselves. What I do like about Birmingham, however, is the music revival currently taking place, and especially the fact that it doesn’t appear to be slowing down. And the most recent band to emerge from the ramshackle Digbeth venues into widespread recognition? —JAWS, and they’re the most exciting yet.
On the surface, at least, they don’t appear to be anything special. A languid indie four-piece that play breezy pop tunes, wear clothes that don’t fit them and have questionable hair could describe any number of bands to come out of Birmingham in the last year or so. Not that that’s a bad thing. What makes JAWS exceptional is the relatively little time it’s taken them to go from playing to about four people and sarcastically introducing themselves as a “really cool band, looking for babes to take surfing” to playing festivals, headlining a sold-out London Barfly and releasing an EP shimmering with promise. Then there is their most recent activity, the single ‘Gold’, which is simultaneously both the second best track and the second best song called ‘Gold’ I’ve ever heard. It’s a tranquil, immersive four minutes that manages to live up to the poetry of the chorus. ‘Take me where the gold drips from the sun/ On to my back’ drawls singer Connor Schofield; and JAWS come pretty close.
One common criticism of the band is the common lethargic nature of the songs. Ironically, this also happens to be their greatest strength. Take ‘Breeze’, the lead track from Milkshake EP, as an example. First of all, the song’s actual title is simply the word ‘breeze’ and much like the aforementioned ‘Gold’, it lives up to its billing. It’s in parts a strung-out, woozy meditation on a love interest that transforms into an utterly hypnotic instrumental after each drum fill. Live, it is breathtaking, and despite the occasional simplicity of Schofield’s lyrics (his recurring mantra of ‘I want it/I need it/Yeah’) they do have a certain charm.
More importantly, they reveal the honest attitude of the band; JAWS are no frills. They rarely chat to the crowd between songs, and if they do, it is in the form of exuberant bass player Jake Cooper rather than Schofield. When he does so, it is to half-heartedly mention the merchandise stand (‘because he has to’) or simply to make loud noises back at the audience (think Brick in Anchorman). Three of them were previously drummers and the actual drummer, Eddy Geach, drums in a heavy metal band on the side. They don’t look or act like they’re in one of the coolest bands around the moment. They don’t even think they are. This modesty and humility comes across in the music and means it does all the talking for them.
JAWS are hugely refreshing in the current hyper-commercialised musical climate where success is based on looks and marketing rather than actual talent. Birmingham is currently thriving with bands like them, much like the breakthrough of grunge in Seattle towards the end of the 1980s. There has, however, yet to be a critical, watershed moment, despite the best efforts of B-Town pioneers Peace and Swim Deep. JAWS may or may not be the band to turn the scene into a defining moment in British music, but it doesn’t really matter. Their song ‘Donut’ sums them up: ‘Don’t want you/Don’t need you/The Sun’s out/I’m cool’. They don’t care – but you should.