Tag Archives: Fugazi

Origin Story

I came across this odd post entitled “The Origin of Emo” on an unusually blank WordPress blog (though the thing appears to be written by a Thom Lloyd, which is the gmail address at the bottom of the article). It’s the only post, and it’s written in a pseudo-term-paper light, with citations that don’t really say much of anything or connote to any one article/book/etc (though some of the names provided can be linked up via a quick search). It’s all very odd.

What’s even odder is Lloyd’s thesis statement on the origin of emo, which he sort of drops in at the end:

Rites of Spring and Sunny Day Real Estate did not start the emo genre.

Eh? Lloyd continues to throw out vague, inconsistencies, many of which I can agree with (genres are a culmination of the sounds that have influenced the bands), and some that are rife for contradiction. Namely the last point:

With all of these factors in place a band and or a label had to start the wheels in motion forming the emo genre.

Huh? Didn’t he just say Rites of Spring did not start emo? And Dischord doesn’t count because emo didn’t rise solely out of it?

This happens to be an ongoing problem with people seeking a solid definition for emo: the fact that the genre/sound exists as a fluid and evolving concept that many individuals ignore simply because of the condescending nature of the term makes it damn hard to tack a pin in it and call it a done day.

But, those irrelevancies aside. Rites are duly credited for starting emo: that’s where the term as a definition for a musical sound came from. Period. Not Husker Du, who Lloyd credits as an important factor. The fact is, Zen Arcade came out after Rites were a fully formed band with an entire pedigree of songs (1984 to be exact). Rites were listening to all sorts of hardcore (nothing I’ve read remotely mentions Husker Du though), and sought to challenge the trends within their own community by embracing a poppier sound. They took from many a British popper: The Buzzcocks are most credited as an influence there. But nothing about Husker Du.

And Lloyd’s idea of indie rock fusing the gap between Rites and Sunny Day is… well, a bit much. Lloyd also calls into play grunge as an important influence on emo and bridging these two bands: hardly. As far as grunge goes, the only role that played was its skyrocketing popularity behind Nirvana led to sale numbers that helped Sub Pop move out of the red zone and avoid bankruptcy so that they could go on and sign SDRE: grunge’s influence on emo is really relevant in a business capacity. Emo was a complete change from grunge, which is why Sunny Day startled so many people in Seattle: it was different. They were different. They took from hardcore, took from bands like Rites, Fugazi, Lungfish, Shudder To Think, and many of the DC bands that Lloyd overlooked. Yes, as Lloyd mentions, there are too many bands to name, and many of them he overlooked when trying to tie these two distinct bands (ROS + SDRE together). Since when do you need to fill in a time blank in terms of bands that came about that were important and led to another important band of the same sound anyway? How many of the new shitgaze (or whatever you want to call them) bands actually took other sounds and used them in their own songwriting? It’s always possible, and often an excellent appeal to change. But I can’t see Vivian Girls having taken lots of notes on IDM when they wrote their fuzzy, 60s surf garage rock sound. (It’s possible, but after the interview where they dissed bands that use a dancey drum beat, I doubt it.)

But there are plenty of bands that “filled in those years.” Just on Dischord there were a bunch (again, Embrace, Happy Go Licky, One Last Wish, Nation of Ulysses, Fugazi, Lungfish, Shudder To Think, Jawbox etc etc). And then there’s Jawbreaker’s take on the sound from DC. And then there’s Drive Like Jehu’s take on the DC sound and it’s impact on the San Diego scene: that whole arty-hardcore-meets-DC-emocore is indebted to the DC scene. Gravity Records, Heroin, Antioch Arrow, etc etc. And all of this in the years between 1984 (Rites of Spring) and 1994 (release of Diary).

That’s a lot of time, and many of these bands aren’t remembered because, in terms of folklore or the progression of a genre, only a few – those considered to be important for one reason or another – are consistently remembered and repeated to the next person, and the next person, and so on and so forth. That is an evolution of a genre, not some influential indie band that has nothing to do with these groups: no offense to The Pixies or Sonic Youth, but those bands hardly share anything with the first wave of emo. And because genres evolve, and many within different spheres and cultures (aka underground or mainstream), it may sound different at different points along the way. So, of course emo sounds different than it did before: it’s not static. Some things grew, other bands made their individual changes, and other bands made changes on other bands’ changes. Though the definition is rather fluid, a general line is fairly recognizable (one that doesn’t exactly include Sonic Youth, who were more no wave affiliated and who’s experimentation is mostly left out of many an “emo” act, or The Pixies, who tend to have a fairly basic pop sound that, as it’s well known, is more a grunge influence than an emo one) and observable.

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List-less Once Again

Another day, another quizzical top ten list. This time it’s curtsey of Justin Jacbos at Paste magazine, with a piece entitled “10 Bands That Prove That Emo Wasn’t Always For The Hot Topic Tween Set.” The newsworthiness of the piece is due to the two fall reunion tours by emo 2nd wave forefathers Sunny Day Real Estate and 2nd wavers The Get Up Kids.

I do have to give Jacobs a solid round for putting The Promise Ring at the top: considering the type of emo-tive image Jacobs is shooting for, and the band’s impact on the future of the genre. Still, Jacobs does go for the condescending route while observing the genre in list form, even praising Andy Greenwald’s Nothing Feels Good (Jacobs’ perspective was revealed fairly clearly when he called the book a “must-read manifesto.”)

Still, a big odd spot of confusion: Fugazi. Or the lack thereof. Great to mention Rites of Spring (though as proto-emo? Come on, the term was first used to describe that very band!), but not even a hint at Fugazi? And instead name check Minor Threat when describing the band? Yes, they are the go-to hardcore band, but Rites were a post-hardcore act, evading many of the redundancies of hardcore and doing things dramatically different than Minor Threat.

But the real kicker with the lack of any Fugazi-inclusion is Cursive. Alright, I get that most people don’t like to include Fugazi into the whole emo arrangement because that either A) messes with their ideals of the band itself or B) invades their definition of emo with something more multidimensional. But to mention a band who’s entire first record literally sounds like a take on the early part of Fugazi’s discography – aka Cursive – without mentioning the inspirational band is just odd.

And no At The Drive-In? That’s just surprising.

The Promise Ring – “12 Sweaters Red”:

Undone Sanitarium

Ok, I can’t pass up an opportunity to talk about this (via Rolling Stone):

Last week Rolling Stone chatted up Rivers Cuomo about Weezer’s new album Raditude. Near the end we asked about the 15th anniversary of their debut single “Undone – The Sweater Song,” which he now admits is “almost a complete rip-off” of Metallica’s 1986 classic “Welcome Home (Sanitarium).”

If you read on, Cuomo mentions that he did not, as the title of the RS piece dictates, “rip off” Metallica, but rather, years later, realized the guitar riffs sound the same.

And it is uncanny. Take a listen:

Metallica – “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”:

Weezer – “Undone (The Sweater Song)” (live):

Obviously, each track undergoes their own transgressions and dips and turns, but that first set of guitar chords and that basic pattern is eerily similar.

If you believe that Cuomo ripped off Metallica, and even if you don’t, it puts another cog in the Weezer ain’t emo machine. For folks who’ve picked up Rivers’ Edge: The Weezer Story, there is a length of material in which it’s revealed that Cuomo was heavily into, well, heavy metal as a child, specifically those legendary licks from the likes of KISS. One of the many things that sets Weezer apart from most of the emo acts before and around their start is their heavy reliance on power-pop tinged heavy metal. Few acts outside of Fugazi wished to channel the same ideas and music of heavy metal in the emo/punk/post-hardcore/post-punk realm, although Weezer’s influence on the emo world since the millennium (along with various other contributing factors) has changed things around drastically.

But, I digress.

Cuomo was always something of a metalhead-loving nerd type, much like Chuck Klosterman, and was never one to hide it. And he managed to bring it out quite well in many a Weezer tune. It wouldn’t surprise me if Cuomo spun Master of Puppets back in the day, as that album still looms large in the metal community. Though he didn’t consciously rip off “Welcome Home,” it wouldn’t be surprising to think that the opening guitar composition somehow popped into his head in a new form while Cuomo wrote “Undone.”

But, as with so many things, we may never know what Cuomo was thinking at the time… or now really.

Make It Stop…

Tsk Tsk LA Times. I’d already done away with (500) Days of Summer a handful of weeks ago, and this is merely another exaggerated interpretation of “emo culture.” So on the one hand, I’d like to dissect it. But, I think the words clearly speak for themselves:

“500 Days” is, as far as genres go, a hybrid picture, something of an emo version of a romantic comedy: It disdains machismo, futurism, violence and volume in favor of subtlety and heartfelt, if often mumbled, emotion.

The one time Tom really runs afoul of Summer’s feelings is when he throws a punch at a guy who’s been hassling her at a bar (downtown’s highly photogenic Broadway Bar, by the way). Tom is one of a number of emo leading men to emerge from Hollywood this year, joining sensitive types in “Adventureland” and “Away We Go,” among other pictures. As Gawker noted this week, the cineplex has been full of “gentle, sensitive, geeky male outsiders with a love of Lou Reed and snug hoodies.”

With its very particular aesthetic point of view and calibrated tone, “(500) Days” shares much cultural ground not just with indie bands but with emo culture broadly defined — with journals like McSweeney’s (whose founder, Dave Eggers, cowrote “Away We Go”), radio programs like “This American Life” (whose host, Ira Glass, is Tom with chunky black glasses and a decade or two older) and so on.

Well, I wouldn’t expect an architecture critic to have a complete understanding of a cultural enigma like emo, and Christopher Hawthorne certainly proves that idea. He is, in effect, confusing sometimes fluid state of emo fans and indie culture, though all his descriptions match that of indie culture. Most “emos” – be they the Revolution Summer folks in the 80s, Fugazi’s punk-for-one-and-one-for-punk calls to arms of the late 80s through the aughts, hell even My Chemical Romance – don’t match Hawthorne’s description. Even the stereotypes of “emos” today – depressed punk youths with a fetish for self-violence – doesn’t match that description. Hawthorne’s words are of indie through and through, from a love of McSweeny’s right down to the Morrissey fandom from this quick spec on the movie.

Among the many camps, Morrissey tends to be tossed into the indie one, and Regina Spektor without question as well. Emo is always, always land of the punk, even if it is an extremely watered down version of that.

To break it down a little further and call it a night, sensitive does not always equal emo culture. Everyone has feelings, every music has some sort of emotional depth behind it (even if it is a shallow pit, there are some feelings elicited towards how hollow a music can be). THAT is one of many reasons numerous emo musicians diss the term and a reason that so many confuse the two.

Night all.

Umm… What?

Rolling Stone, you take the cake:

…so we can pretty much pin the entire state of emo at this point on Minor Threat.

Why do I even bother? Do the folks at RS even know what music is anymore? They’re probably too busy catching up with The Beatles circa 1966 to even try to recognize what music is being made now, never mind back in ’82.

This news byte by Daniel Kreps landed on the site about a half hour ago and references yesterday’s Drowned In Sound interview with Jim Suptic of The Get Up Kids. Obviously, this is a little side snipe that is supposed to be funny, but considering the entire article is based off of a snippet from another interview, there’s no stopping the nitpicking on this one.

Because it’s not just that one sentence that display’s RS‘s inability to perform as the kind of magazine it advertises itself as, it’s the entire article. The entire article is based off of another person’s hard interviewing skills, and the fact that Rolling Stone merely ripped off a few questions from that person’s interview (and it may have taken a lot to get that out of Suptic), made it the basis for a big news article, AND STILL CONSIDERS ITSELF THE TOP OF THE MUSIC JOURNALISM HEAP is absolutely ridiculous. Sure enough, I wrote an entire post based on the same responses, but I don’t pretend to be the source of important music information today. And, I beat RS to it to boot.

And as for Kreps, the auteur of this fine piece of RS BS? The one who insinuates that Minor Threat is the reason emo sucks today, simply because Suptic referenced Fugazi as an influence and Ian MacKaye was in both bands? (As an aside, I’m sure Suptic would have something to say about Kreps’ idiotic pandering.) Well, who knows much about him, but, if this happens to be his Twitter account, the following isn’t unsurprising:

dktw

Is the “bio” comedy through Irony? If it is, I can’t say that I entirely get it.

Minor Threat – “Filler” (live):

It Had To Happen…

I’m referring to a Get Up Kids interview featured on The Drowned In Sound website. Though it’s only been online for a matter of hours, it’s attracted a wave of attention for a rather misinterpreted quote that goes to the tune of GET UP KIDS APOLOGIZE FOR EMO on several other news sites reporting on the interview. It’s a rather brief moment in the conversation, but Get Up Kids guitarist Jim Suptic had this to say when pressed on the term “emo”:

Honestly, I don’t often think about the state of ’emo’. The punk scene we came out of and the punk scene now are completely different. It’s like glam rock now. We played the Bamboozle fests this year and we felt really out of place. I could name maybe three bands we played with. It was just a sea of neon shirts to us. If this is the world we helped create, then I apologise.

Valid points, sure enough. Surely, I tend to appreciate it when bands generally refuse to bash groups that they’ve influenced, instead taking the high road and not delving into that subject simply to not unnecessarily stir any bad blood. What’s funny about all this is that Suptic really is speaking the truth about not keeping up with the state of emo. After all, what he’s describing sounds like scrunk, a sound that’s definitely indebted to and a part of the geneology of emo, but a creation that exists unto itself.

How do I know it’s scrunk Suptic is referring to? Well, the neon shirts are a dead give away. But so is the part of his following answer:

We at least can play our instruments.

Same ole’, same ole’. But, to each his own. I never particularly liked much of the Get Up Kids stuff to begin with… I can understand the role they had in both accelerating emo’s ascent to the top of the charts and providing support for the Vagrant business model, but most of their tunes I just can’t dig. But, as Suptic reveals in the interview, they certainly do fit into the 2nd wave emo lineage:

Fugazi is the reason I am in a band today. When I was 14 I heard Fugazi and started a band the next day. We grew up on indie rock. Superchunk, Rocket from the Crypt, Sunny Day Real Estate, Cap’n Jazz. That’s the kind of stuff we were listening to when we started.

Sounds familiar. And though Superchunk and Rocket aren’t emo bands, Superchunk is noted to have a pretty solid influence on 90s indie music, including emo (The Promise Ring anyone? That’s all Pitchfork could do when talking about TPR was to compare the two), and Rocket are a Drive Like Jehu offshoot of post-hardcore. Basically your out-of-the-ordinary ordinary roundup of influences for a second wave emo act.

This whole thing could potentially snowball into the Tim Kinsella vs Max Bemis free-for-all, though Tim had a more malicious rant against the emo acts he inspired, and Max had just as much venom when tossing insults right back. Good for Suptic for generally foregoing all the drama of attacking every band in Alternative Press and generally letting them be, even if he can’t give them credit for their music. Oh well.

The Get Up Kids – “Action & Action” (video):

VS

The Bamboozle fare… BrokeNCYDE – “40 oz” (video):

Neon Shirt

Saw the above t-shirt at Warped on Tuesday. It may just be a shirt, but nowadays fashion is oft as important – if not the important – as the music that a band chooses to define itself. In My So Called Punk, Matt Diehl notes the clashes between “emo” kids and traditional “punk” kids at Warped came out in the t-shirts they wore. Just like during the earlier part of this decade, the same thing is happening currently, but pitted between scrunk and traditional “punk” acts. There were more black punk shirts in support of traditional punk virtues – though none as straightforward anti-scrunk/crunkcore as the photo above. And they faced a host of bright, neon colored shirts from acts such as 3OH!3, brokeNCYDE, Millionaires, Jeffree Star, etc. Take a look at some of the designs below:

3OH!3 shirt. They also had a shirt that said "This is a 3OH!3 Shirt," which I wasn't sure if it was a humorous send up of the "This Is Not A Fugazi Shirt" or not

 

brokeNCYDE shirt. Their crowns, when done by hand in concert, is similar to the 3OH!3 hand design. Also, not the most annoying brokencyde shirt

brokeNCYDE shirt. Their "crowns," when done by hand in concert, is similar to the 3OH!3 hand design. Also, not the most annoying brokencyde shirt

Even check out the Babycakes shirt, which screams (pardon the pun… or play on the situation) scrunk:

Anyway, that was an interesting aspect of Warped I took notice of.

As another aside, while stopping by the Vagrant merch tent on Tuesday, I noticed the tip sign by the guy running the tent. Most tip signs usually have some gaudy or humorous note to get people to drop a buck. The Vagrant guy’s merely asked people to donate to fly his girlfriend out to Warped. In many ways, this image (and I wish I could have gotten a picture of it, but the weather was really hit-or-miss, and this was a miss moment) is perfectly representative of Vagrant’s take on emo: there’s a clean cut guy with a simple message trying to get his significant other to come accompany him on a big event for the summer. And the guy was nice to boot and quite enthusiastic about their selection of $5 Dashboard Confessional albums. Couldn’t have been a more perfect match. Needless to say I dropped a buck.

That’s all for now… check in to Bostonist in the late morning, as the Warped piece should be online at that point.