It’s always a nice surprise to come home from a bad day at work to find a package at your door-step. At first, you get overly excited, flustered with butterflies, thinking some secret admirer has bought you a present, and then reality sinks in when you look at the professionalism of the packaging and realise it’s something you forgot you ordered several weeks ago, usually from America…

So on 19th October, I had forgotten that I ordered Glassjaw’s CD/DVD re-release of the record Coloring Book, a CD they gave out for free at the end of a string of shows – I was able to pick one up when I caught them in March of last year in London. These shows consisted of a Hellacious set of favourites, followed by an encore of all six songs from the new record, in chronological order. This died the evening down, giving the atmosphere and different feel, sense and mood, almost like a comedown; as quite noticeably, Coloring Book is far mature and superior in technical ability, diversity and intimately lyrical.

I was not sure what I was expecting when I ordered the re-release: would the DVD content be of a documentary, or a live performance, or music videos, or what? I just wanted more Glassjaw in my life, and I was under full assumption that whatever footage I would receive, would be golden. The band have that knack about them; that class, that ego, that coolness – whatever they do, I love.

The DVD contents turned out to be of a live performance, and of all things, the six song encore of the very show I went to on 30th March 2011, live at the HMV Forum in London, situated in Kentish Town - it’s a pretty big and fancy Art Deco style venue. So yeah, I was chuffed. Double chuffed. Plus it was a good night anyway, because I remember drinking enough beer that day to sink a whale with my friends Ryan and Chris – even to the extent where we drank so much around Kentish Town we ended up missing support band trash giants, Napalm Death. Well, at least we heard them whilst we were queuing up outside.

As I reflect back, I recall the night being spectacular and one of great excitement and pleasure. Brutal and explosive anthems, blended perfectly with slick and effortlessly pungent jazz-infused bangers; all the classics, which the moving pictures mirror perfectly. Complied of stylish, slick shots, slow moving cameras capturing interesting crowd shots (for example, one guy simply out-of-it, rolling his eyes around his head), and shots from the crowd, scanning the stage, oozing atmospheric greatness. Without trying to sound too over the top, the DVD is a fantastic visual display of an intense show, in high definition quality, with exceptional quality sound – truly professional and thoroughly well done.

What stands out for me, whilst watching the DVD (for like the twentieth time now) is how much they’re seriously into the songs – grooving and bopping along, Beck absolutely loving ‘Gold’, adding a fantastically eerie constructed outro, and Palumbo waiting to explode during ‘Vanilla Poltergeist Snake‘, eager to get these songs more attention. ‘Miracle in Inches’ becomes a lot darker, and aggressive with a unique twist in his voice, changing the dynamic of the song entirely, which can also be seen in ‘Black Nurse’ through his off timing, and the now deeper ‘Stations of the New Cross’. This helps create a line between the studio and the stage.

Not just here, but in general, the Long Island quintet really only utilise Palumbo for the presence and movement – yet it somehow seems to work, and to great effect. He is like a car-crash, you cannot take your eyes off the leather jacketed enigma, questioning in amazement as to what he will do next, and he throws his body around the stage, from side to side, skipping along, dancing seductively, aggressively, punching the sky, mimicking gun shots in time with the drums or explosions with his hands. Whilst the musicians take a back seat, holding their ground and oozing coolness; they show dominance and dedication – passion in a different light, all fully aware they have the crowd wrapped around their fingers/in the palms of their hands.

Here is a selection of screen shots I took from the DVD myself:

 Copyright of Glassjaw, and Aml, 2012.

For the sake of comparison, I will discuss Incubus: After a drunken bar crawl around London a few weeks back, my friend introduced me to a live Incubus DVD, Alive at Red Rocks, from 2004, where Incubus played to a staggering crowd, enormous in size and volume at Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Morrison, Colorado – an outside, hazy summer night spectacular, if you will. In a haze on our own, she put it on and we slumped onto her sofa, and let the ‘magic unfold’. I was presented with something new and felt some awe rumble inside of my tummy – however, in fairness, it could’ve just been hunger; the pizza was ready to go in the oven, but it was taking quite a while to heat up.

Ostentatious venue and delirious appreciation aside, I was able to reflect back to my first viewing of Coloring Book, and even back to witnessing the footage live (lucky me), and compare my thoughts. Yes, they were quite similar; both times I was impressed, but what was most noticeable with Alive at Red Rocks, was front man Brandon Boyd, but more specifically, his unattainable, enviable vocals. Over the course of a more-than-two hour set, his voice remained incredible, no matter where he held his microphone, the end product was loud, clear, and flawlessly beautiful. With Palumbo in Coloring Book, they do sound flawed in comparison (even to his to his studio recordings/edits), but more raw and genuine here, with a real validity. The strain had set in from a lively set, leaving the encore very demanding on his voice, and this really stood out for me and made the difference.
Incubus opened with the one song I actually know the band for (from some compilation CD I got free with Kerrang! magazine, back in the days of my youth) – had all the right chemistry, chemicals and energy, but failed to explode, and for an opening song to a performance, the crowd deserved more. Naturally, watching a band of such power and magnitude, just simply seeing them and hearing the song live is enough for most to say they had a brilliant time and it was a pinnacle (a high pointed piece of rock, heh) act.

Despite a new bassist (Ben Kenney), at a band of that level, you expect more flare from a performer of that ability. If they were a ‘nobody’ band, playing their first show at a low level venue such as Cambridge’s Portland Arms (for example – you know, that little box room, the size of a toilet, with a stage that’s an inch off the ground and in the far corner (subsequently, Letlive played this venue last September; I had tickets but wasn’t able to make it to CB1 that day – absolutely gutting)), the lack of visual passion could be taken wrongly, and accusations of apathy would the audience find (shut up, Yoda), and for me, that’s what I felt needed to change when I saw this performance. The other members appeared like mannequins accompanying Boyd on stage (who outshone the lot), truly putting the ‘front’ in frontman. Clichés behind us, it was nonetheless a truly bold performance, and consisted of footage that I would recommend watching, perhaps hinting to re-watching, because I was highly impressed.

It must’ve been, as I can see from researching the venue that Incubus returned in 2011, and probably played several shows there too between 2004 and 2011. I would suggest however, not to put your (wolf)eggs* all in one basket, for whatever Alive at Red Rocks seemed to lack, Coloring Book certainly made up for, the obvious of which being the performance. The indicator, Incubus performance wise, was it did seem slightly lacking; the energy was there, but it was not visual. It was only around the half way mark that Boyd himself let loose and started to move about on stage, interact with the other members and shake his luscious locks about. I felt it still wasn’t enough to grab me.

Palumbo, on the other hand, as a performer has always left me in awe, and in jealously of wanting to be him, right down to the clothes he wears. Over the years, I had grown up a big Glassjaw fan, I’m not sure how it happened, but with a love of all things Long Island, I would have just stumbled across them and slowly found myself sinking into their clutches. I first got the opportunity to see them perform in 2008, at Give it a Name festival in Earls Court, London with the line-up they are still with today: originators Palumbo and Beck, and Manuel Carrero and Durijah Lang formally of Saves the Day – so this was a big treat for me, and this performance was pretty much was sealed the deal; the final nail in the coffin. No escape, I was in their clutches for good.

The band playing Give it a Name was the main reason a friend and I bought tickets to the festival. Naturally, the concept of a festival appealed to me, but the reason for this festival in particular was undoubtedly seeing Glassjaw for us both. So, what could be the best possible way to express my eagerness and excitement as I entered Earls Court, and waded my way through the crowd to the centre whilst the opening act, Broadway Calls, played? Yes, as one of their songs had finished and the cheers and clapping had died down, I shouted “Glassjaw!” at the top of my lungs. This got a couple chuckles, and suddenly from behind me, I heard a response, another “Glassjaw!”. It inevitably started an uproar which continued throughout the day, crazed kids screaming for Glassjaw to capture the stage. It never got tiresome.

So finally, the next day, 11th May, late afternoon, there they were. I was at the bar area, being chatted up by some random girl who said she loved my This is Hell shirt, and that they were the best band to come out of Brighton for some time (yes, she said that), when Callum and I heard the cry of the crowd. We dropped our drinks and sprinted across the arena and into the fray, descending into chaos. There, I remember seeing a guy in the pit that looked like Sayid from Lost, which threw me a bit and kept me distracted at several times (sorry, I digress), but that performance (finally! I had seen them!) essentially sealed the deal for me. I was blown away by the scream machine; he was like a trapped tiger, confined to the stage, and still to this day, the footage from Coloring Book portrays this energy rightly.

To think, this is all thanks to a chance meeting at a camp, back in 1993. Beck recalled meeting Palumbo, as he spoke to Redstar magazine two years ago:
"We had a list of names, and we were just like, let's pick one of these band names which ones the coolest. At the time there were a bunch of bands coming out with two names in one like that, like Mouthpiece, Curbjaw, stuff like that. We were going down the list, and the first name that I liked was Swiftkick. I'm all like, that’s a sick name. But for some reason Glassjaw stuck. There's really no reason behind it; it just sounded cool**"
Speaking of ‘sounding cool’, I remember the first time I heard Coloring Book. I was sat on this cold, metal stool in my ex-girlfriend’s kitchen, air drumming away, acting like the biggest prat known to man, as ‘Black Nurse’ thundered through my little laptop speakers to the high ceilings, and I instantly knew that these songs were anthems for arenas and large venues. I could easily hear them live in my head, the crescendo of Beck’s guitar as he started to further incorporate jazz and ambient influences accompanying powerful, echo-like drumming, smooth, funky bass, and aggressive, guttural screaming with a melodic touch. This is big, I thought, and I still think it today. It’s a silly image, but it’s going to stick with me.

So let’s sum up: Glassjaw are the coolest and on planet Earth***, and Coloring Book, with its stylish artwork and classic packaging, proves why****.

* ‘Black Nurse’ was originally titled ‘Wolfegg’, and demoed under said name, listed under set lists, etc.
** Glassjaw is a cool name.
*** A genuine Daryl Palumbo quote goes as follows: “Glassjaw rules. And that is a fact. I read that on the internet”.
**** I’ll stop saying ‘cool’ now.

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