April 11, 2009

Emo, The Good The Bad and The Ugly.

What is emo music? By the way popular culture portrays the music subculture you might mistaken it for a bunch of whiny depressed teenagers with black hair who cut themselves. However, "emo" music didn't start out as the soundtrack for teen angst and wallowing. Emotional hardcore as it was formally called started off as an offshoot of punk rock. It was created by punks who were frustrated with their own scene; they believed there was more to punk music than anger and protest songs. Although to many people the parallels between the genre "punk" and sub-genre "emo" are obvious, the sound of emo core was considerably more crude and closer to riot punk than the slick pop infused sound of today. The scene thrived for many years with a devote underground following where it mixed with the sounds of folk and indie rock. The music started to scratch the surface of the mainstream in the early 2000s with bands like Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional getting radio play and video spots on MTV. Later bands like My Chemical Romance, Panic! at The Disco and Fall Out Boy achieved mainstream success with large followings and world tours. Although emo is a genre of music most of us love to hate, it is really not as horrible as some indie snobs (me included) hardcore punks, and other outsiders to the scene make it out to be. The truth is emo has been given a bad reputation by various media outlets like MTV who showcase the worst emo music of the worst (and yes I'm talking about YOU Hawthorne Heights). If you are an adventurous listener there are plenty of good emo bands under the surface, hiding from the Fall Out Boys and Boys Like Girls of the world. The list below consists of what I think are the best, mediocre, bad, and worst bands of the emo world (at least in this girl's opinion).

The Good:

Jawbreaker - One of the first "emo" bands formed in the 1990s, Jawbreaker sounded more like a hardcore punk band than the "signature whiny emo sound" people associate the genre with today.

Rites of Spring - Formed by Minor Threat fan Guy Piccottio who added romantic frustration, loneliness, and a more melodic sound to the punk scene.

Embrace - Ian MacKaye's emo band (formerly of Minor Threat) and my personal favorite emo band...be prepared to many this sounds more like hardcore punk.

Fugazi - You really can't mention the word emo without mentioning this band.

Jimmy Eat World - Another band that I am partial to, although some would call their sound now more "pop rock" there is no denying that they started as one of the most important emo bands of the 90s. They made the genre accessible to a whole new generation of teenagers with their more "mainstream" sound.

Say Anything - Sarcastic, blunt, and little bit insecure Say Anything songs showcases what I think is the future of the genre. Sure Max Bemis (the lead singer and song writer) can be a bit of a jerk ( and something else that rhymes with Bemis), but if he keeps producing albums like "In Defense of the Genre" and "...Is a Real Boy" I think we can allow him to be.

Rainer Maria - A bit more indie rock than emo, the lead singer Caithlin De Marrais is refreshing and soothing like in the song "Catastrophe" and a bit harder and grating in other songs like "Ears Ring" the band has always made quality albums over quantity but sadly broke up in 2006.

Sunny Day Real Estate - The album "Diary" is one of the most important emo albums ever and can probably be blamed for all the "softer emo bands" that invaded the scene in the 2000s, However, this doesn't make the album any less awesome. Or the songs "Seven" and "In Circles" any less melancholy.

The Get up Kids - Another band that unfortunately gets blamed for the new influx of modern whiny emo bands. However, I have always had a soft spot for the album "Something to Write Home About."

Dashboard Confessional - I love the songs "Hands Down" and "Stolen" his albums are so intimate they almost seem a bit too personal but that's what makes them so good.
Not to mention I have always had a crush on Chris Carrabba.

The Mediocre:

Northstar - Yes I know they are one of the older emo bands, and yes I know that they are one of the first break through emo acts, but the singer's voice can be slightly nasal and annoying and all of their songs sound like the same generic whiny mess.

The Used - With song titles like "Buried Myself Alive" I think I can safely rule out the Used as being a lofi or a twee pop band. Although they try really hard to make even more depressing songs with even more depressing titles, you see that's the problem...who really wants to play a album where all the content is the same? "Buried Myself Alive" is a cool song at first but 12 tracks full of "Buried Myself Alives"? Don't think so.

Boys Like Girls - I think Boys Like Girls just came at the wrong time. There isn't anything awful about their music as a whole its just not special. There are plenty of bands today that sound like them, and their music is too shallow to be considered a relevant artifact of emo music history. They are like the Miley Cyruses of their genre...sure they are popular now but after they loose their youthfulness will anyone still be around to listen to them?

Cute is What We Aim For - Maybe I am being too hard on them because they come from my home town (Buffalo) but there is something inherently annoying about their look and sound. When they first burst on to the scene every kid at my high school had a CWWAF T shirt so I figured I had to check out what the big deal was about...what I found was quite disappointing, another cookie cutter band with a cookie cutter sound.

The Bad:

Paramore - I think the song "Misery Business" sums up my feelings for Paramore perfectly...they are miserable to listen to.

Hawthorne Heights - If you really need to know the reason emo was given a bad name in the mid 2000s look no further than this band. The lyrics make no sense except for the occasional outbursts of "Cuz you killed me!" and "my final breath is gone!" no wonder the girl left you...I wouldn't be able to take listening to your shitty music either.

The Ugly:

The Juliana Theory - Want a emo band that falls into the stereotype category? Well this is it! Take their song "Congratulations" the opening; "you kissed your life goodbye like lovers in the night." Woahhh...really? And the song goes even more down hill from there "your shadow falls on me?" Is this song really necessary?

Secondhand Serenade - Oh man another emo band with serious song writing issues. "Cause today you walked out of my life, today your words felt like a knife, I am not living this life." Congratulations! you guys can rhyme!

Taking Back Sunday - I'll admit it, I liked the song "A decade Under the Influence" it just sucks that it all went downhill from there. "This Photograph is Proof" is almost painful to listen to its so bad. The lead singer whines at one point "would you like to forget?" and yes sir I wish I could forget this song.

My Chemical Romance - Maybe My Chemical Romance were ashamed of ruining the genre, but about 2 years ago they even denied being part of the scene, therefore making them part of this list! When your lead singer wears mascara and eye shadow and you play songs about death and suicide in a whiny fashion...what else should we call you? You certainly aren't a goth, metal or an industrial band...You give emo a bad name.

Story of The Year - When your biggest song is "Anthem of our Dying day" I think enough has been said. Its too bad this song wasn't the nail in this band's coffin.

Panic! At the Disco - Not sure I should even classify Panic! as emo anymore I mean "I Write Sins not Tragedies" was one of the of the worst songs of 2006 and sounds like emo's answer to R Kelly's "trapped in the Closet" in terms of format and absurdity, but everyone must move on. Panic's newest album is more of a Sgt Pepper rip off.

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