Tag Archives: Stacks

America Is Just A Word: The Book

Last night, Public Enemy’s Chuck D dropped some knowledge at Harvard. Among the many insightful and brilliant things D had to say, one struck me in particular:

“People need to write books. People need to write more books, now, more than ever. Write books and the cream will rise to the top.”

That’s a bit of an abridged statement of what D said (I didn’t get the talk on tape), but that concept hit right home. The past year I’ve been attempting to publish my own book, and it’s gone slower than I’ve anticipated. Though there’s no definite publisher at the moment, I would like to announce that my work, America Is Just A Word: Post-Hardcore, Emo And American Culture will be published. Whether it’s done through a book publisher or if it will be self-published hasn’t been determined, but, in any case, the words I’ve created will find their way to some bound collection of paper in the near future.

Like this blog, America Is Just A Word focuses on the world of emo, but from a multi-faceted angle. Rather than providing a straight-forward narrative of the bands, individuals, and songs that shaped the genre from its early roots into its mainstream limelighters, America Is Just A Word focuses on emo from the perspective of its connection to and reflection of American culture. Comparisons between artists and American literary figures, cultural critics, and societal concepts are drawn, observed, and left open to interpretation. Unlike the two other popularly-produced books on emo (Andy Greenwald’s Nothing Feels Good and the joke guide to emo Everybody Hurts), America Is Just A Word doesn’t crucify the word emo for a stereotypical and easy-to-use term for commercial use and popular representation. Rather, the book carefully observes the changes in definition, the concepts surrounding the genre, and the ambiguities, contradictions, and idiosyncrasies that have informed emo for nearly twenty five years.

Needless to say, this book isn’t your usual “oral history” that seem to be published en mass lately. Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with oral histories, but with some books, the creativity is nearly absent (though it certainly takes a lot of work to morph the words of others into a concise narrative and it’s certainly informed by those putting said narrative together). So, in the coming months, I hope to have updates about progress on the publication of America Is Just A Word: Post-Hardcore, Emo And American Culture. I’ve begun a Twitter account for means of getting word about the book out in another forum; in the coming months, expect to see additions to this blog that are connected to the book. And for those eager to see what my 33 1/3 book on The Promise Ring’s Nothing Feels Good may have looked like, you’ll be happy to know there’s an entire chapter/section devoted to the band, with a healthy amount of input from singer/guitarist Davey Von Bohlen.

 

There will be more info to come soon. Until then, keep reading this blog and checking Twitter for updates, and I’ll leave you with a video of the song that inspired the title of my book.

Fugazi – “Stacks” (Live in Louisville):

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It is the Golden Age

I’m probably one of countless others to check out the newest TV on the Radio song, “Golden Age,” today. Hopefully, I’m also one of countless others to be absolutely floored by the track. The song is off the band’s new album, Dear Science, which will be arriving in just over a month on Interscope, and is available for streaming access at TVOTR’s site. And you’ll never want to move beyond the opening page after hearing this one. It’s just enough to listen and stare at the record’s cover art:

Dear Science cover

Dear Science cover

The cover is a simple, streamlined vision (not unlike Desperate Youth Bloodthirsty Babes, though considerably lacking any outright image). But the song is not quite simple, and it’s all the better for that. The opening bassline is reminiscent of early Talking Heads, while some of the bridges and choruses remind me of a palatable mix of Michael Jackson and George Michael, with high-pitched vocals swept up by uplifting horn sections. It’s got the familiar TVOTR sound, but it’s got a candy-coated pop blast which is celebrated in the spare hand-claps and the string section that pops up halfway through. And man, is it slick, but with a tasty noise-meets-hip-hop-meets-electro center. Let’s hope the rest of the album sounds like this.

TV on the Radio in earlier years

TV on the Radio in earlier years

The kind of work that TV on the Radio has been doing for “art punk” or whatever you want to call it is reminiscent of what Fugazi was doing for emo (though not necessarily that namesake) about a decade and a half ago. TVOTR sprung up from a creative community (Brooklyn) and have continued to support their friends and like-minded peers within Brooklyn and other dedicated outwardly-thinking musical communities through touring and recording support (David Sitek produces numerous art punk acts while Tunde Adebimpe has lent his vocals to tracks by Power Douglass and Subtle). But equally important is the band’s dedication to furthering their musical output into regions least explored. “Golden Age” is a prime example of that; while their earlier work is buried in waves of ambient noise and oft-rambling instrumentals, “Golden Age” takes a 180 degree turn from that without abandoning their original musical voice. The same goes for Fugazi, the group who ardently supported like-minded musicians in DC and nationally, while furthering their take on emo (and a variety of other genres) from straight-up punk anthems (“Waiting Room”) to dub-infested cathartic blasts (“Shut the Door”) to hip-hop infested philosophy exchanges (“Stacks”) to punk-pop panache (“Public Witness Program”) to fuzz-infested rock bliss (“By You”) to jazz-funk freak-outs (“Break”) to campfire-worthy classic rock (“Argument”). In the ability to further challenge one’s own expectations in the drive to achieve a greater musical creation, these two acts have certainly shown that anything is possible.

TV on the Radio – Modern Romance (Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover):