Monday, February 16, 2009

We are Emo Part I

1984 - Gray Matter - Food For Thought (Dischord)

The members of Gray Matter considered themselves a hardcore punk band for the duration of their existence as a group. It wasn’t until a bit later that the punk community realized that their bright guitar sound accompanying interestingly catchy and melodic vocals were something very different than what was happening at the time. These four regular looking shaggy haired legends set the stage for some great acts of the same breed.

1987 - Rites of Spring - All Through a Life (Dischord)

They were some of the dudes that made the infamous Revolution Summer occur in the mid 80’s. In a time when punk was starting to change in many directions, Guy Picciotto and Brendan Canty (later of Fugazi)and band mates steered an amazingly original sound into Rites of Spring. Their performances maintained the intensity of hardcore punk, but the band strived to change the rules in a new and experimental way.

1989 - Moss Icon - Mahpiua Luta 7” (Vermin Scum)

Droning and sometimes spastic, Moss Icon found a very early spot in the game. Befriending other promoters of the Rev Summer phenomenon and being strategically located in Annapolis, Maryland, Moss Icon struck a chord with nearby rock and roll D.C. neighbors and kept the new sound alive.

1993 - Indian Summer – Pitchfork 7” (Repercussion)

The band that really started it all for me. My friend Mike played these guys for me when we first started hanging out many years ago. Their soft/loud dynamics coupled with their ability to build their songs into a chaotically emotional explosion, made these guys stand out from the crowd. The low-fi recordings which often included a quiet background sound featuring Bille Holiday , kept the mystery and realness of Indian Summer exactly how it should have been.

1994 - Sunny Day Real Estate – Diary (Sub Pop)

One of the key defining albums of the genre, SDRE’s Diary rocks hard with honest, serious emotion. The band successfully combined a post-hardcore Seattle rock sound with pretty vocals/vocal melodies. The band broke up shortly after this release but reformed to release three more albums. Bassist Nate Mendel and Drummer Will Goldsmith went on to join the alternative rock monster group Foo Fighters while singer/guitarist Jeremy Enigk continues with solo efforts and remembers one time group The Fire Theft.

1994 - Weezer - S/T (Geffen)

I can’t deny that I love most of what Weezer has done. These guys are heavily responsible for the (silly) sweater vest fad in the late 90’s, and for all of us freaks with creepy retro dork glasses. Their pop sensibility and keen fashion sense was all the young world needed. Unfortunately they’ve recently traveled the radio-friendly path and lost that edge they had a decade plus ago.

1996 - Jimmy Eat World - Static Prevails (Capitol)

I had the pleasure of seeing this band a dozen times during their pinnacle as an amazingly creative group. In the late 90’s, Jimmy Eat World was a household emo name for obvious reasons. The band explored huge new sounds that ripped through the boring radio rock at the time. Unfortunately with time, the band became what they originally stood out from and joined the radio friendly family and began making music suitable for teen films.

1996 - Texas is the Reason – Do You Know Who You Are? (Revelation)

Do You Know Who You Are?, named after the final words to reach John Lennon’s ears, could have been and should have been the next huge thing for the genre’s success. Hailing from hardcore label Revelation Records, the band featured Shelter’s guitarist, 108’s Drummer, and Copper’s bassist. The sound these godfathers of 90’s hardcore came up with in TITR lives on in infamy as one of the greatest.

1997 - Christie Front Drive - S/T (Caulfield)

These Denver kids had a completely different approach to what was happening at the time. CFD combined the desperate sounds of early 90’s south California emocore with a late 90’s, almost avant-garde semi-instrumental sound. The vocals were extremely obscured and mysterious, the music was bright and dark, soft then hard. Christie Front Drive, in my opinion, was one the greatest success stories of its sort.

1997 - Mineral - The Power of Failing (Crank!)

Probably one of the most “powerful” records of the sort, The Power of Failing dishes out 10 driving tracks in about fifty minutes. The guitar work is big and loud and leaves you envisioning your own sub-plot to Chris Simpson’s touching lyrics. For a bunch of regular guys (or “pizza boys gone rock” as the insert describes) their efforts are quite extraordinary.

1997 - The Promise Ring – Nothing Feels Good (Jade Tree)

The Promise Ring bring you the poppier side of the genre with Nothing Feels Good. The hooky bass lines and simple yet captivating guitars have you bobbing your head with each track. The lyrics are serious and sometimes fun, and always visual and thought-provoking.

1998 – Braid – Frame and Canvas (Polyvinyl)

I consider this album the best Braid album available. Poppy, mathy, and melodic, Frame and Canvas takes you on a colorful journey through the minds of four Illinois rockers. The band broke up in 1999 but reunited in 2004 for one of the most successful reunions of the sort. The response and turnout at the events were living proof of the band’s influence on the music scene and the followers of the genre.


ogabott said...

interesting commentary ... Did Dave G of Nirvana know the guys from SDRE when they all lived out in Seattle? I didn't know the SDRE bassist and drummer formed the Foo Fighters.

Jeffo said...

Apparently Dave met Nate and Will of SDRE through Nates' wife. SDRE was going through some tough times with Jeremy Enigk converting to Christianity and changing the sound of the band as a result, so the guys had their feelers out for a new project. When they finally joined the band with Dave, every instrument on the debut Foo Fighters record was played by Dave. Nate and Will continued to play with FF's but rumor has it that Dave rerecorded some of Will's drum tracks at some point and really upset him. Their were creative tensions and Will eventually left. Nate stayed to play with new (and current) drummer Taylor Hawkins. Apparently Dave favored Taylor's style over Will's.