Tag Archives: post-hardcore

R&Bemo?

It seems that the Seattle Times‘ Andrew Matson has stumbled upon the formula that came to fruition in popular culture a bit over half a decade ago:

“random genre/culture/thing/idea/word” + “emo” = combination of the former two concepts!

Back when emo first really hit it big, it seems everyone was trying hard to configure the term with, oh, just about every other term out there for a while, such as emo rap. (Curiously enough, this was the same thing that occurred within post-hardcore punk communities in the mid-80s which begat the term emo.) There’s no question that this equation has yet to cease, but it’s certainly faded as a large chunk of the media limelight has hoped the “indie” bandwagon.

However, in a recent piece on the musician Drake, Matson doesn’t even attempt to hide the fact that he’s making pointed calculations to his audience. It’s all in the title:

R&B + emo = R&Bemo | Drake – “Successful”

So, what exactly defines R&Bemo?

“Successful” takes place in the most gothic of R&B batcaves. Vocals waft in, fade out, and a sparsely decorated hiphop beat is revealed. Snare and bass hits echo. A lone synth’s electro-organ warble is a single candle. The music is beautiful.

The music is also Drizzy’s cold, cold soul.

Mmm… sounds a lot like… well, R&B, potentially sans the echo. Also, “Drizzy?” Really?

Matson continues:

From the very beginning, “Successful” is broody and forlorn, a perfect example of the new R&Bemo (R&B + emo), a mini-movement in contemporary rap and R&B.

The new R&Bemo is different than singing the blues. It’s post-that. The blues is direct; it’s crying. The new R&Bemo is also about pain, but it’s post-crying. The new R&Bemo is psychiatric. It’s picking up where Prince’s “When Doves Cry” left off, marrying minor-key pop jams to lyrics that show an awareness not only of one’s own pathologies and neuroses, but potential causes and fixes. For the latter, the new R&Bemo is psychopharmacological. It’s about drinking, driving, smoking, spending, having sex, and sing-rapping your way through this crazy life.

At this point, it seems that the “R&Bemo movement” sounds a lot like, say, the new Kanye West album (and the oft-incorrectly attributed connotation to emo). (And I’m not entirely sure what Matson implies with the term “post-crying,” but isn’t the performance of music, blues especially, a means of psychologically dealing with one’s pain?)

It’s not just that Matson’s description makes Drake and 808s sound similar. They sound similar too. Take a listen…

Drake – “Successful”:

Kanye West – “Love Lockdown”:

All Drake needs is a little more autotune and a more grandoise fashion sense…

I’m not one to deny that this exists or to say “shame on you” to Matson for his emo mathematics after I’d put together heapings of words dedicated to scrunk. (After all, my Phoenix article was also up front about screamo + crunk = scrunk.) And I’m not one who’s well versed in the modern R&B world… I couldn’t have told you who Drake was before reading this piece. But, until someone shows me a handful of artists aside from Drake and Kanye who are making minimalist electronic beats to be crooned over – R&B style – and derive some musical inspiration from any, and I mean any, emo artist (ilk included), I just find this whole term, well, kind of odd. But, I’ll keep my eyes and ears open.

Interview with Justin Pearson

It’s been a long while since I last featured an interview by an individual to be featured in the forthcoming book, America Is Just A Word. I’m pleased to present some snippets of the first part of an ongoing interview I’m conducting with Justin Pearson, a man who’s energy cannot be contained by the sheer number of bands he’s been involved in. Most folks may know him from his role in The Locust, a band I was lucky enough to see open for Andrew W.K. some odd number of years ago at the 9:30 Club in DC.

Though Pearson’s amassed discography certainly deserves its own book, America Is Just A Word will focus on his experience as vocalist for Swing Kids and as co-owner/creator of record label Three One G.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s a peek at parts of the interview:

*How’d you get into music? At what age did you decide that you wanted to give music a try?

Justin: “i think at an age, maybe as early as i can remember, i was into music. i was into kiss for obvious reason as to why a 5 year old would be, they looked so cool. i think being drawn to them, was sort of a door opening to what i needed to focus my attention on. i remember being way into styz when “mr roboto” came out. then i remember being super into van halen’s “1984” album as well as michael jackson’s “thiller”. so all this was from age 5 or so up to 8 or 9. at some point, i realized that kiss sucked pretty bad and started to focus on the actual music and what i was drawn to. i think at that point, i stumbled upon skateboarding and that led me to the thrasher skate rock comps. so then i found myself listening to septic death and then bands like the cramps, suicidal tendencies and so on. at that point, i was totally submerged in music and more so, punk and metal. when i was 12 i met the cramps and they were the biggest influence on me to start a band. they were so cool to me and really showed me that i could play music, and that being a musician, even well known like they were, i could accomplish something as great as what they were doing.”

*You often describe your background as poor, white trash, etc. Do you feel that these circumstances helped form who you are as a person? Or even why punk music appealed to you?

Justin: “i suppose. its hard to say though. its not like i can try it another way and compare and contrast situations. however, being from the poor side of the tracks, i think it forced me to be more creative, as well as appreciate the little things in life. it also installed a strong work ethic in what i try to accomplish. as far as punk and its appeal to me, it makes sense as to why id be drawn to it. that was essentially what punk music was created out of and who it was created for.”

*How did you meet and become friends with Eric and Jose?

Justin: “jose i met at a p.i.l. concert when i was 14. then i got a job with him at a swap meet working for his uncle. then he started going to the same high school as me. with eric, i somehow met all these kids in the east county of san diego and eric was one. at some point, we started playing music together in struggle, then later on in swing kids.”

*Considering you, Eric and Jose were in Struggle together, what was the key moment, act, or idea that made you want to all play together again as Swing Kids? How’d you all determine how the band was going to operate?

Justin: “eric was in struggle at the start of the band then quit and started unbroken. later on, he rejoined struggle. once struggle split up, we decided to start swing kids. it had a lot to do with peoples changing interested in certain kinds of music and art.”

*There’s this general concept that seems to run deep in a lot of the people/bands I’m including in the book [America Is Just A Word], that being that the personal is political, that every idea and notion of what you do is no less political than the “screw the pigs”/”fuck the man” sentiments that a lot of played-out hardcore seems to push. How did you and the other guys in Swing Kids come to that conclusion on your own terms?

Justin: “i agree. with struggle, it was sort of that mentality of preaching to the choir. it was already said and done. granted, the things that we were saying were relevant, but we were 15 and 16 years old. at some point, we wanted to say things differently so we did so. but all of this was never preconceived, it just sort of happened and then in retrospect, all made sense.”

*When you wrote the lyrics for Swing Kids songs, where did you draw inspiration from, both for the actual content of your songs and for the point-of-reference for the material you were writing?

Justin: “well i think since it was my first stab at lyric writing for a band besides the occasional lyrics that id contribute to struggle. so now, looking back, i think that the lyrics, and even my voice in swing kids is the weakest part of that band. but it was what it was, i mean, i was still pretty young, and honestly had no idea what i was doing. i would not even have considered myself a musician or a lyricist. but the inspiration was drawn from all sorts of things. none were musical really. i think heroin was a great band, but i was more into political stuff. just at the time of me writing lyrics, i was looking for the not to obvious or overtly political things to draw from. i think i was also growing up and dealing with odd emotions and things from my childhood that were taking a toll on me coming into an adult, trickled into some of the stuff i was trying to convey in the lyrics. its interesting though, as swing kids just recorded two songs when we did the recent reunion. one was redone, or finally completely written, the song “situation on mars”. originally it was just a mess that we created in the studio. at times, even felt like filler. so we write it properly. the additional lyrics that i wrote had more meaning to me than ever. the song took a turn and could be applied to a few things in my life. the lyrics were also written for the band, and even for eric allen, who passed away after the band originally broke up. but i tend to leave the lyrics, specially in swing kids, open ended, for the listener to use them however they want to. the other song we wrote and recorded, “fake teeth”, is about a band in specific that caught wind of swing kids, sort of late in the game and cashed in on something that was not theirs, hence basing their career on something as obvious as culture theft. i think that we benefited in ways by disbanding at a point in time, then coming back to what we did, after we had created a legitimate fan base, and how we still managed to hold onto our dignity.”

Swing Kids – “Intro To Photography” (live, 1996):

Let’s Make A List: An America Is Just A Word Update

I’m happy to announce another addition to the America Is Just A Word roster of voices involved in the book. Chris Leo, frontman of The Van Pelt, will lend his voice to the evolving narrative. The Van Pelt were a part of the post-hardcore/emo scene in New York City in the mid 90s and were quite entrenched in the scene. They were signed to Gern Blandsten Records, buddies with Texas Is The Reason (and happened to give that band their name), and helped progress the general post-hardcore sound in the city. You may also recognize Chris due to a fraternal connection of his… to one Ted Leo, of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (who’s mid-90s emo act Chisel was also signed to Gern Blandsten Records).

The band has recently convened for a handful of reunion shows, so if you’re in DC or Philly, be sure to check them out at the Black Cat (Friday) and Kunfunecktie (Saturday). And stay posted for even more news about the book and the interview process as it continues!

The Van Pelt (live):

Cave In Reunion Show

That’s right! The Massachusetts post-hardcore metal maelstrom known as Cave In is doing a reunion show. So far, it looks like it’s just one show, at Great Scott in Boston. Tickets went on sale this morning at 10 am and sold out.

I’m currently trying to grab frontman Steve Brodsky for an interview for Bostonist. I put on a show with Steve and folkie Elijah Wyman last year at Brandeis, and it was quite a combo. Steve’s a wonderful songwriter and an excellent performer, and a nice and friendly guy to boot.

And as for Cave In? I was lucky enough to catch them before their current hiatus a handful of years ago, in Newbury Comics of all places! Though I wasn’t as familiar with their discography as I am now, it proved to be one of the best sets of that summer, and I can still distinctly remember the set being so loud that some of the merch fell down and hit one of the guys (Adam I think) partway through the set. I hope there are a handful of tickets leftover that I can grab!

Hilarious interview from years ago:

PS: Here’s what the band had to say on their myspace, a brief announcement concerning the reunion just two days ago

“Dear friends,

 

After 3 1/2 long years, Cave In has decided to end its hiatus. Please

join us for an EP release show at Great Scott’s (1222 Commonwealth

Ave., Allston MA) on Sunday, July 19th @ 9PM. Also playing will be our

friends Disappearer and Phantom Glue. Copies of the “Planets Of Old”

limited 12″ (recorded by Adam Taylor, Alex Hartman & Johnny Northrup @

Camp St. Studio) from Hydra Head Records will be available that night.

 

We hope to see your lovely selves.

 

Steve, Adam, J.R., Caleb

CAVE IN”

Man, talk about a viral response – those tickets went quick!

Exusamwa

I can’t believe I have yet to catch this band…. Granted, Exusamwa have only had three public shows, but still… they’ve got members of Fat Day, Life Partners, and the owner of Weirdo Records! And they’re as secretive as none other, nothing but a few online pics to do justice (that’s right – not even a myspace page to speak of).

Luckily, Dischord and Dynne posted this mp3 of their recent on-air gig at 95.3FM. Needless to say, it’s something else, a nice little mix of acoustic strumming, experimental aural noise, and Melt-Banana-esq juxtapositions of post-hardcore noise and bursts of sweet pop… a nice mix from a lot of bland emo-pop of today.

I’ll stand on watch for the band’s next gig… I suggest for others to do the same!

Last Year In…

Music-and-film based satire blog The Umpteenth Times posted a great piece involving stimulus plans and Fugazi. What a gag:

 

“Fugazi to Receive Stimulus Check from Government

By Frank Gurbleck

 

WASHINGTON D.C.—Earlier this week, the Washington D.C.-based band, Fugazi, received notice that they will be receiving a stimulus check as a part of President Obama’s attempt to boost the economy back into motion.  The government’s reasoning for singling out the band is due to Fugazi’s efforts throughout the years to keep concert costs at a minimum.  The band has decided to accept the check but do not plan on keeping the money for themselves.”

 

Great stuff and the article does just what The Onion does best with their satire.

The piece reminded me of an event that happened one year ago, nearly to the day. Last April, I brought Ian MacKaye to Brandeis to do an informal Q+A and it was easily a highlight of the year. Schwartz Auditorium was packed to the gills, with folks of all ages sandwiched into seats crammed on the floor, up in the rafters, and crouched in corners all to ask Ian the questions that they’d wanted to ask the guy for who-knows-how-long. Of course, Ian was insightful, hilarious, and down-to-earth, answering every question with a tone of respect no matter how many times he’d spoken about straight-edge or how innocuous the query may have seemed.

It’s partially because of Ian’s own actions that I was inspired to critique emo in the way that I have on this blog and with America Is Just A Word. I’d been working on America Is Just A Word for a couple of years, but it’s Ian’s own dedication to his fans and music in general that offered another inspiring cog in whatever multi-gear machine I’d been riding out at the time. One year later and I’m still at it! Hopefully, America Is Just A Word will be available in a short period of time.

Tune Travis Tune: An America Is Just A Word Update

I’ve got some exciting updates in the progress of America Is Just A Word.

While I’m content with what I’ve already written for the book, I must admit that, from conversations with other individuals and some time mulling it over, it does need a little something… more. In and of itself, I feel the book has plenty of information on the relationship with emo and American culture that would satiate both inquisitive emo novices and academic musicologists alike.

But, there is always room for a little more… and while the considerable literary attention paid to the 80s independent/underground/hardcore/post-hardcore/etc genre in recent years has only increased, there are plenty of acts that will get left out. Although it’s impossible to cover every band that was important to someone, there are certain groups that definitely need a look.

So, I’ve begun to seek out interviews from members of acts that will add a little more clarity to the culture of emo that I discuss in the book. So far, Chris Simpson of Mineral, Rick Froberg of Drive Like Jehu, and Travis Morrison of The Dismemberment Plan have agreed to be interviewed for some additions to America Is Just A Word. It’s quite exciting news, and it’s a great feeling to do some more creative work on the book versus the enormous task of editing that is ahead of me. Keep a lookout as some of these interviews may crop up as a post here and there. Until then, it’s going to be quite a treat talking to these three…

*Mineral – Gloria (live):

*Drive Like Jehu – Do You Compute? (live):

*The Dismemberment Plan – Time Bomb (video):

Hey! What?! No, Really… What?

I wish I could blame this sort of thing on April Fools Day, and perhaps the timing is all-out irony, but it’s stuff like this that reminds you how everyone lives under their own rock at times. What am I talking about specifically?

Scrunk.

That’s screamo-crunk.

The Guardian already “discovered” scrunk a year ago. That same time, the genre was added to the definitive online dictionary for pop culture, Urban Dictionary:

picture-1

(It’s important to note that, the number 1 spot for scrunk on urban dictionary is “the act of being stupidly crunk,” a definition that I have heard, making me feel not quite as old-for-my-age as the above definition.)

And glancing at the myspace pages for scrunk acts BrokeNCYDE and I Set My Friends On Fire and seeing the millions of listens that have occurred in these groups’ short life spans, you have to wonder… sometimes it’s a little hard keeping up with the speed of information and culture dissemination these days. This does, however, explain the presence of a number of headlining bands on Warped Tour that I’ve never heard of… they’re in the scrunk scene.

 

BrokeNCYDE

BrokeNCYDE

Then again, there doesn’t appear to be much of a “scrunk scene” as the term scene would indicate… just a couple of bands from different parts of (most likely suburban) America combining two seemingly disparate genres. In many ways, this sound is something that can be traced back to a number of influences, many having cropped up within the past few years. Scrunk can be seen as the screamo extension of the infusion of electronics in emo and pop-punk, a sound glorified in the music by bands such as Panic! at the Disco, The Higher, and Hellogoodbye.

The mass popularity of these acts could conceivably trace their way up to the scrunk sound; the combination of different genres with an emo subgenre isn’t that hard to conceive. In many ways, it’s a monument to the power of technology, the dissemination of information, and the high speed with which our culture travels. In that, it’s not inconceivable to consider groups of suburban kids picking up a hip-hop genre from Atlanta and other southern urban areas, and fusing it with another popular genre that they listen to extensively. In many ways, crunk is no more foreign than anything else when you consider its pairing with screamo. With the exception of notable acts such as Thursday, screamo has been susceptible to many of the pains (no connection to actual content by emo/screamo acts) that emo is criticized for adhering to. Shallow music about romance, sure thing. Sometimes taken to extremes with strong hints of misogyny that Jessica Hopper so eloquently pointed out in a 2004 Punk Planet article entitled “Emo: Where The Girls Aren’t?” Set that level to “scream” and you’ve got that tenfold. The violence and oft-stereotyped images of hatred towards women that can be evoked in some emo songs can be taken to extremes in screamo. So, when you’ve got a hip-hop sub-genre that’s known for misogyny, repetitive and stereotyped beats, and an extreme version of its former electronic essence (“electro” or “Miami bass” – take your pick) and post-hardcore sub-genre that’s equally extreme, musically stereotyped, and known for romanticizing the problems in romantic longing, all while it’s original part (emo) is making waves by moving in the direction of using electronic instruments… well, the math adds up pretty clearly.

Don’t believe that crunk and screamo can be equal? Well, BrokeNCYDE have had no problem adapting the two in a matter of time… 

Perhaps someday scrunk may change, but if it doesn’t, it just may just fade away… and probably for the better.

Still, you have to marvel at just how quickly these bands have managed to crop up, generate a sound, and gain millions of fans and hits… it’s quite mind-numbing…

 

BrokeNCYDE – “Get Crunk”:

I Set My Friends On Fire – “Crank Dat” (Dora the Explorer-themed video):

The Revolution Will Be Produced

It’s always nice getting some sort of personal email, especially when it’s in the form of a musical reunion between David Byrne and Brian Eno. Well, “personal” isn’t quite the right word, but I certainly took the message as a sincere and direct one:

It’s with great pleasure we offer you a sneak peak by sharing an MP3 from the album. The song is called “Strange Overtones”.

The album in question is Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, and it’s the first collaboration from the two post-punk minds in decades. The duo last came together with the album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. However, that album was overshadowed (and probably will always be overshadowed) by Byrne’s main musical artery, Talking Heads. Yet, Eno was a central tenant to the Talking Head’s success, as his role in the producer’s seat for three of the Heads’ best albums (More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear of Music, and Remain in Light) was as vital as any other performing member of the band. It was because of Eno’s previously-unforeseen creative control over the band – which according to the book Rip It Up And Start Again hit its tipping point when Eno and Byrne got writing credits for Remain in Light ahead of the other band members, who were simply written down under the umbrella of “Talking Heads” – that his relationship with the Talking Heads and Byrne deteriorated.

Talking Heads

Talking Heads

It took me quite a bit of time to realize what an impact certain producers have over the final musical product. I always assumed that the final version of a song and album was simply a record of what the musicians themselves had originally created. And in many cases, that is true, especially in the world of underground music (and on the flipside, with mainstream, conglomerate pop, there’s the tendency wherein the “musicians” have less control over the final sound – or even the original sound to begin with). But as I became more interested in music, its with the “behind the music” stories so to speak, that I realized what a fundamental role producers play. The most famous stories I can think of involving the influence of a producer are all about Rick Rubin, the man who transformed the Beastie Boys into a fully-fledged hip-hop act and brought guitars and turntables together with his idea to do a Run-DMC/Aerosmith collaboration.

Rick Rubin

Rick Rubin

Rick Rubin is the kind of guy who blends a musician’s sound with his own distinct style. His style is not quite overbearing, but you can hear distinct patterns and ideas in songs such as Jay-Z‘s “99 Problems”; with it’s big, chunky guitar riffs broken up by break-beats, its in the same ballpark as “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” or “Walk This Way.” It’s something I tend to notice coming out of my favorite producer today – Danger Mouse. Despite the fact that DM works with a diverse number of genres and artists, there’s a certain reliance on futuristic-soul (a bit faster than old skool soul) with a twist that flows through most of his repertoire. Don’t believe it? Take a quick listen to the Black Keys‘ “Strange Times” and compare it to Gnarls Barkley‘s “Go-Go Gadget Gospel.” They’re both excellent songs, but they share a pop-friendly downbeat and have the same hand-clap filled start.

Strange Times:

Go-Go Gadget Gospel:

It is partially due to production that emo transformed from an obtuse and ambiguous umbrella term for DC based post-hardcore, into a tangible genre. In its infancy, many of the bands who were tagged as “emo” simply produced their own records, or had friends produce their records. Everyone from Rites of Spring to Beefeater (note – their friend “Gumbo” MacKaye is said to have produced their overture) to Fugazi to Lungfish to Jawbox had band members working on both sides of the soundtrack. Hell, Happy Go Licky, the post-Rites of Spring group in a slightly different formation, only has one album, and its a collection of live recordings. The first wave of emo’s lack of a singular mode of production allowed for each act to create their own sounds uninhibited by any outside forces.

Happy Go Lickys Will Play

Happy Go Licky's Will Play

Enter the second wave of emo and there are noticeable changes and formulations drawn out that inevitably impact the future of the genre. The 2nd wave basically has two distinct halves: the spread of the DC-inspired sound to particular parts of the country in a small number of bands (Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbreaker, etc), and then the immediate spreading of “emo” under the influence of the previous 1st and 2nd wave bands (most notably throughout the Mid West). Of all of the groups in emo 2.1, Sunny Day Real Estate had the most influence, and yet, they themselves have two distinct parts in which their sound developed due in part to the band’s relationship to two producers: Brad Wood and Lou Giordano. Wood produced the first two Sunny Day albums (Diary and LP2), and the production value brought out a certain aural dissonance derived from the feedback of the band’s dual guitar-work. Considering the band found an instant fan base (albeit, rather small) isn’t unbelievable as their produced sound shared numerous qualities with grunge, which was still popular at the time (Wood worked his alterna-sweeping grunge sound into the work of other artists such as Red Red Meat, Hum, and Smashing Pumpkins). And yet, on LP2 you could sense that the band wanted to achieve something more powerful than the immediate gratification of sonic blasts, as songs such as “J’Nuh” delved into succinct, taught patterns. When they reformed, Sunny Day grabbed Giordano, who helped relieve the band of its excess dissonance in favor of sparse melodies, a concept which has carried on into the band members’ post-Sunny Day work (The Fire Theft, Enigk’s solo work). Sunny Day held their own individual sound throughout their career, but with the help of two different folks created two distinct portraits.

Sunny Days final form

Sunny Day's final form

As emo spread throughout the rest of America and bands began to share musical ideas, producers helped sift through the sounds to create something resembling a conglomerate creation. And the two people who had the most impact behind the bands themselves are Mark Trombino (former Drive Like Jehu drummer) and J Robbins (former Jawbox frontman). Trombino is best known for his production work with Jimmy Eat World, most notably on the album Clarity, a record which traded the band’s pop-punk leanings for ambient experimentation. Trombino’s relationship with Jimmy Eat World, Mineral, Knapsack, and Boys Life no doubt formed a core aesthetic for emo which mainly highlighted the band’s talents by simply teasing out the volume, focusing on the intertwined guitar flurries, and highlighting the singers’ vocals. It’s a style of down-tuned production that no-doubt has influenced countless pop-punk and emo bands today, many of whom Trombino has worked with.

J Robbins

J Robbins

As Trombino fiddled with certain bands’ sounds, J Robbins mostly covered the bases of bringing the bands to the studio. In the case of many J Robbins’ produced albums (most recently, his work on Ponytail’s Ice Cream Spiritual has gotten attention for bringing a notoriously hard-to-record-but-excellent-live band into the world of recorded sound), Robbins leaves much of the musicianship up to the band, but makes sure to twist the production knobs in a way that it gives each group the kind of pop-friendly gloss they were hoping to achieve. Even in the case of Texas Is The Reason (Do You Know Who You Are?), Robbins has been able to flesh out the noise-fetish in order to create approachable pop. In fact, Robbins’ work with one band in particular helped drive emo into the bubblegum chew of pop perfection: The Promise Ring. After TPR were upset with the sonic outcome of their debut, 30 Degrees Everywhere, they turned to Robbins for a little quality control. And that’s exactly what Robbins did, delivering the band’s two poppiest records; Nothing Feels Good and Very Emergency. It’s with Robbins that certain aspects of the emo “sound” manage to stand out, because he managed to make the sounds all stand out; rather than bands being lost in a caterwaul of noise, Robbins’ produced material (from the Dismemberment Plan to Jets to Brazil to Braid to mewithoutyou) sounds clear and conscience, making the band stand out. And in music production, that’s what counts.

Brian Eno and David Byrne – Strange Overtones (fan video):

Unearthing Burial

‘I’m a bit like a rubbish super-hero …” says Burial, shyly.

So began Dan Hancox’s exclusive interview with the dubstep musician known as Burial. At least, it was exclusive when it was published last fall. Now, the chase is on to grab hold of this (formerly) elusive musical force.

Burial

Burial

For all intents and purposes, Burial is (or was, depending on the context of your thinking) the closest thing that the music world could ever get in terms of a superhero. Although I had mentioned that prototypical “rock stars” were the equivalent of iconic superheroes (or the ideas of such) in an earlier post, Burial’s case is literally a comic book come to life. If the superheroes of comic books made soulful electronic, reggae-based pop music.

Will Bevan

Will Bevan

Will Bevan appears to be your average young adult. There’s nothing particularly out-of-the-ordinary looking in his profile. Hell, his online profile for the all-too-famous website Facebook is easily found at the click of a few buttons. At a quick, momentary glance, he just appears to be another kid from London. Like Peter Parker, he would appear to blend into the background to all but those who know him.

And then there’s this other side of him. The side that only a few know about. The side that gets held in higher-than-high regard among those who chomp down on dubstep plates, who consume music factoids at fast-paced speeds. The side that would appear to “save lives” through the serene sounds of soulful, calm, and altogether inventive dubstep – a bastardized combination of UK hardcore, garage, 2-step, electronica, grime, and just about any other electronic-based genre coming out of London. The side that gets pushed to the pantheon of great artists with a Mercury Prize nomination. The side that gets hunted by the tabloid media. Is it Untrue to think that Will Bevan’s alter-ego, Burial, really isn’t some sort of superhero in the music world?

Part of me wonders what will happen to Will Bevan, Burial and their combined musical output after his decision to unmask himself to the public. Done under such circumstances, when his alter ego was viewed with unheralded mythic-like proportions, its hard to tell what the final outcome will be like. Bands – or more importantly, the individuals behind them – get put on the grandstand, but it’s usually a gradual process that their entire beings are emotionally attached to. Even with the “OK Go effect” – where a former one-hit wonder suddenly storms to unseen popularity with the help of YouTube – involved something of a climb, albeit quite quick rather than gradual. But with Will Bevan, Burial was a mask to hide his individuality behind – and a great one at that. No matter what the music press or fans said, he could always physically and mentally distance himself (to what degree, who knows) from the magnetic image of his creation. What happens now will still be in control, but a situation that will no doubt contain momentous pressure.

With that, I have to call back to my main reference point: emo. As mentioned in various previous posts, emo, as a musical creation, is a genre based on normalcy – anonymity if you will. As Fugazi’s popularity climbed in time with the alternative boom, the band members continued to make the decision to separate themselves from the rock-star status that the media and mainstream were shaping the new punk acts into. The members remained, and continue to remain, your average member of society, a point that they strike home in Instrument, the documentary which showcases Fugazi’s blistering live sets next to images of them relaxing in motels, gassing up, and food shopping in supermarkets while on tour. Their rejection of the mainstream allowed them to stay – at least in their own realm – perfectly normal and did not impede upon their creative zest for powerful post-hardcore. And it worked. That same element, coupled with a general focus on regular issues in life that seem to be shared within the lyrics of most 2nd and 3rd wave emo acts, was carried through to the genre’s current incarnate. It isn’t until one faces the operatic stage-pandering of My Chemical Romance that you realize how emo, in some cases, has been absorbed within the mainstream.

My Chemical Romances live shtick

My Chemical Romance's live shtick

And so, Will Bevan is now faced with the first day of the mainstream’s possibly-fatal attraction. But chances are, he’s mighty aware of the consequences of his actions; the short note he left on the Burial Myspace blog has an air of assuredness that can only come from someone keenly aware of their actions. Bevan made the decision to be anonymous, and he made the decision to open to curtains. Although Bevan and Burial were connected as one in the same by NPR back in May and by The Independent before that, it wasn’t until Bevan did the deed himself that the blogs and press have actually begun to stand in attention. Clearly the power and all in Bevan’s hands. Chances are he’ll know what the best decisions are in his – and Burial’s – life.

Burial – Ghost Hardware (fan video):