In recent interviews, Damien Jurado admits his aim in making I Break Chairs was to get radio to play his songs. If it didn’t cost so much to buy his way onto a Clear Channel playlist, Jurado could have very well pulled it off.
Seattle-based Jurado is more known for writing slow, melancholy songs which get critics scurrying to their thesauruses to come up with all the same adjectives — minimal, spare, introspective, gentle.
I Break Chairs is none of those. In fact, the title of the album is pretty descriptive of its contents — the way the guitars crunch on this album could crush a few recliners.
“Paperwings” opens the album with a country-rock swagger reminiscent of Uncle Tupelo’s more rowdier moments. “Dancing” follows with a dischordant intro more at home on a Weezer album.
That’s not to say Jurado has been downloading Rivers Cuomo’s demos and studying them. Rather, he’s tapped into the same creative well-spring that informed the poppier moments of Caitlin Cary’s solo work.
“Inevitable” notches down the volume level with a simple pulse vaguely reminiscent of a blues grind, while “Air Show Disaster” features harmony vocal akin to the great man-woman pairings of country music — George and Tammy, Gram and Emmylou, Ryan and Caitlin.
But after “Never Ending Tide” transitions back to the louder regions of the volume knob, there’s no turning back — it’s straight-ahead rock all the way to the end.
Drummer Andy Myers does an exceptional job navigating through the various textures on the album. He imbues “Dancing” with it’s hard-edge crunch but steadily underscores the sparse arrangements of “Air Show Disaster”.
Fans enamoured by Jurado’s more introspective work may find this 180-degree creative turn off-putting. Many other reviewers have already voiced such opinions. First-time listeners (such as myself) will instead find a rocking album packed one end to the other with really great writing.
Regardless of their setting — loud or soft — Jurado’s songs are immediately likeable. He’s a great melodicist, and there’s no questioning the simplicity of his riffing. Even without the droning electric guitars and chiming glockenspiels, “Like Titanic” is, in the end, a good song.
Jurado set out to widen his audience with I Break Chairs, and even if radio neglects to rally for his music, the album is still a great starting-point for newcomers.