Tag Archives: Jawbreaker

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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forget Thorns of Life

bl1

Blake's newest Facebook status

Consider this a (hopefully short) spell of regurgitated music info while I give myself a bit of a mental break.

Reading through Unlikely Words‘ new postings just a few moments ago revealed that Blake Schawrzenbach’s newest project, Thorns of Life, is now defunct. Enter “forgetters” a new trio by Blake.

As the Internet is no stranger to rumors (um… dur), there’s been info flying this way and that about all the rumors. The folks who broke the Thorns break up, City Sound Inertia, report any number of things, including the identity of the drummer named “kevin” to be Kevin Mahon, formerly of Against Me!, that there were fights during the recording session for the aborted Thorns of Life album, etc etc.

As all the info circulating can literally change at any moment as it travels from second and third parties, I’m just going to let Blake’s Facebook status do the reporting on this one (and Aaron at Unlikely Words as he’s been so on point about getting the info on Thorns out to the public). Such as the following reply to his Facebook status:

bl2And apparently they’ve got a mix of Thorns songs and new forgetters songs to boot. And Blake is into doing work with bands. And he likes fish tacos.

Ok, the last thing I made up, but it still is mind boggling how close everyone pays attention to 140 characters of what is normally used for personal info (Facebook moreso than Twitter) for breaking news. But, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Thorns of Life – “Kryptonite” (Live at 924 Gilman Street):

Cowboy Emo

Turning towards a Perfect Lines perennial favorite – Lucero – we have what’s been dubbed “Cowboy emo.”

I stumbled upon this from a post on Tampa’s Creative Loafing about the band. The piece was more sizing up/summarizing a “Lucero for begginers” mix by Romeo Sid Vicious, who chose to name his online mix “Cowboy emo.” Romeo explains further:

I chose “Cowboy Emo” as the name of this compilation due to a rumor of the conversation between Ben and Brian that laid the groundwork for Lucero. I won’t bore you with the whole story but rumor has it that Brian described the music he wanted to play as “Cowboy Emo” during that conversation. I don’t think there’s much emo and not much cowboy in the music but it’s a fitting title nonetheless.

I have to disagree with Romeo on that last point, as Lucero’s sound is heavily indebted to the southern rock/country stylings as it is the post-hardcore ravings that sprung from DC and went onwards. A key piece of evidence is Jawbreaker’s “Kiss The Bottle,” a perennial favorite cover that finds its way into many a Lucero live set and sees the band stay true to the emocore roots of the song while drawing out some countryish twang as well.

Still, I’m not at all bored with the idea behind “cowboy emo” as I am fascinated by it. I tried scouring the net for an answer, and the best I could find was in an enotes entry on the band:

The group’s early work featured slow love songs [Brian] Venable termed “cowboy emo” to Michael Donahue in the Memphis newspaper Commercial Appeal. That’s “cowboyish, sappy love songs,” Venable told Donahue. “Emo being short for emotions.”

Not entirely helpful, but a quick scan of the Commercial Appeal archives shows an article from December 18th, 1998 entitled “Lucero Sings Blues For Bereft Cowboys” that is, most likely, the article in question. Unfortunately, you have to pay to read the article, and I think I’d rather track down a physical microfilm or scan of the paper than pay $3 for 500 words of text.

So, perhaps, in the future, I shall have scanned the piece with my own eyes and gotten to the bottom of “cowboy emo!”

Lucero – “Kiss The Bottle” (live acoustic):

Amazon is soooooooo emo

Amazon released their list of the 100 Greatest Indie Rock Albums of All Times. As with any “definitive” list, Amazon’s has some flaws, and some seem to stand out like sore thumbs, especially moving from one individual’s taste to the next. As a side note, yes, Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion is a great album and will no doubt be at the top of many an end of the year list, but isn’t it a bit too early to put it in the category of top anything of all time? I mean, the album came out two months ago…

The rules and regulations for the list were rather confusing, and when you consider the concept of indie rock vs independent rock music (many an early blues/rock label were, by way of creation, independent, but there’s not a mention of any Chess Records release or otherwise on the list), it’s all the more perplexing. And, the list does bring to light the confounding question of “is emo indie?” which seems to be brought up more often nowadays in a fashion sense than a musical sense. Still, a good chunk of emo produced today is independent and fits into the ambiguous aesthetic of “indie,” and in the past, emo was a strong component of the 90s emo scene.

Don’t believe it? Take a look at where some big-name emo acts landed on the Amazon list:

84. Hearts Of Oak – Ted Leo & The Pharmacists

83. Save Yourself – Make Up

80. The Ugly Organ – Cursive

78. Nothing Feels Good – The Promise Ring

45. How Memory Works – Joan Of Arc

31. Repeater + 3 Songs – Fugazi

29. 24 Hour Revenge Therapy – Jawbreaker

If you’re confused about the placement of some of these albums in relation to one another, you might not want to look at the full list… it’s rather… well, odd. But, I do have to give them some props for including The Promise Ring’s Nothing Feels Good33 1/3, take a look at that list!

Thorns of Life updates

Blake Schwarzenbach fans have been rabid about the man’s new project, Thorns of Life. Big news is, the trio has entered the studio. According to Blake’s Facebook status (may this be the only time I need to rely on that site for “news” posts), the band will be recording until the 11th of March… ish. The AV Club broke the news that legendary independent producer and emo troubadour J. Robbins is producing the record. Excellent news, considering Robbins’ long history or producing great music. Added bonus for Jawbreaker fans is that the Thorns of Life will sound more like Schwarzenbach’s notable late 80s/early-to-mid 90s emo act.

For folks eager to hear the Thorns of Life material, you can download recordings from a couple of their recent live shows. And check out a couple of videos below.

Nothing Nice To Say About Emo

Then (Circa early 2000s/beginning of emo’s third wave):

Emo

Emo

Now(ish) (Circa late 2007):

Bike Gang, Part XVIII

Bike Gang, Part XVIII

Mitch Clem’s punk webcomic Nothing Nice To Say is surprisingly on-point when it comes to making fun of emo. Whereas the general consensus of the term had dramatically changed within the same time frame, Clem remarks on the subtle changes within the greater stereotype and gets some good licks in. And anyone with a sense of humor and a taste for old school emo could sure get a kick out of this baby:

Frosted Blakes

Frosted Blakes

Jawbreaker and Sunny Day Real Estate jokes in the span of one panel. Nicely done.

597-Way Tie For Most Eclectic Proposal

What could have been - fake cover for a famously rejected proposal

What could have been - fake cover for a famously rejected proposal

The 33 1/3 blog released the final list of the nearly 600 potential books on a wide variety of albums that Continuum received after the call for open proposals a little while ago.

Needless to say, it’s quite a list. It’s interesting to see what albums people are passionate enough about to fill an entire book, and think about numerous individuals (who most likely don’t know one another) who came together at the same entry period and wrote a proposal about the same record (Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville and Slint’s Spiderland got a lot of props).

Perhaps what’s great to see is the number of emo albums that have been proposed. In general, it’s a generous heaping of bands in the large arc of emo’s narrative. There’s Fugazi (who received numerous proposals from their discography), Lungfish, Jawbreaker, Jimmy Eat World, Say Anything, and (of course) Fall Out Boy.

Now, I must admit, I submitted a proposal too. Mine is for The Promise Ring’s 1997 album, Nothing Feels Good.

Nothing Feels Good Album Cover

Nothing Feels Good Album Cover

From the looks of all the proposals, it sure must be tough to choose 20 or so out of hundreds of great ideas. But, I’ve got my fingers crossed for my idea. And it’s not just because I am the one who wrote and worked on the proposal. Rather, I feel it’s record that needs to be discussed, and one that hasn’t had the proper opportunity to be carefully observed and thoughtfully written about in the thorough manner that every 33 1/3 book requires. Nothing Feels Good is still as astounding today as the day it was released (nearly) twelve years ago, and its impact on popular music today is equaled by a handful of other albums. Hell, even the folks at Pitchfork who frequently turn their nose down on emo acts and albums loved The Promise Ring’s sophomore disc. If that doesn’t show some middle ground between mainstream popular music listening (to which TPR has had undeniable influence over and certainly had an appeal towards, despite the indie circuit with which they traveled in) and elitist-leaning tastemaking, I don’t know what does.

Hopefully, the editors of the series will think so as well. And one of the first handful of comments sure gave me some hope:

Anonymous Anonymous said…
I thought pitching a book on the Hold Steady was a long shot, but the fact that there were two other proposals for Separation Sunday puts some of my fears to rest…

I appreciate seeing some of my high school staples getting pitched: 24 hour revenge, clarity, nothing feels good… I can, indeed, still feel the butterflies…

tw

2:21 PM

Good luck to everyone who worked hard to get those proposals in on time, and same to the Continuum folks who no doubt will have a lot of hard thinking to do!