Best Of 2009, Guest Editors: Jawbox On George Pelecanos

As 2009 has come to an end, we are taking a look back at some of our favorite posts of the year by our guest editors. Today’s entry is from December 9. Here, Bill Barbot of Jawbox writes about George Pelecanos, one of our favorite authors and a long-time friend to MAGNET.

JAWBOXlogoIn the wake of the overwhelming success of Nirvana’s Nevermind, major labels in the early/mid-’90s began signing any and every cool indie band they could in hopes of a similar payoff. One such outfit was Jawbox, a Washington, D.C., post-punk quartet that had issued two promising albums on the indier-than-thou Dischord label. The band—guitarist/vocalist J. Robbins, guitarist Bill Barbot, bassist Kim Coletta and drummer Zachary Barocas—signed to Atlantic and released the excellent For Your Own Special Sweetheart in 1994. (Though MAGNET named it the fifth-best album that year, Sweetheart was far from a commercial hit.) In 1996, Jawbox issued a slicker self-titled LP, which also failed to catch on beyond the indie-rock crowd, and the band broke up the following year. Dischord has just reissued For Your Own Special Sweetheart with three bonus tracks, and to celebrate, Jawbox reunited for a one-off performance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last night. Barbot is also guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.

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Barbot: George Pelecanos always gave us a reason to be proud of being from D.C.—or, more specifically, of being from Silver Spring, Md. Once I got to college and met some real honest-to-god New Yorkers, Los Angelenos and Chicagoans, I developed a pretty serious inferiority complex about the literary value of my hometown. Naturally, there have always been books about D.C.—congressional affairs, White House intrigue, CIA and FBI and Watergate—but they always seemed to be written by outsiders, the same people who wrote scripts for Scarecrow And Mrs. King and made Silver Spring plural (sorry, we only have one spring) or who put a subway stop in Georgetown for some Kevin Costner flick (maybe No Way Out?). I still see it all the time on 24—the “G Street Mosque in Georgetown”? Google Maps, people. It’s not that hard to pretend like you care. It’s only our nation’s capital. Pelecanos cares. He’s from here. He’s lived here. He talks like it. He’s been where he writes about, from U Street to Cardozo Heights to Shaw to Vinyl Ink, my erstwhile neighborhood record store. And he’s succeeded in more than a dozen excellent crime novels in making D.C. a city worth writing about as a city, not as a set-piece. He’s a damn nice guy, and it doesn’t hurt that he mentioned Jawbox in one of his books, too. Video after the jump.