Remember when Emo wasn’t for wimps?
Now that I have your attention, it’s not completely true that emo isn’t for wimps, because for the last 10 years or so, emo kinda has been for wimps. At least, since all those bad MTV type bands with kids wearing their hair like Justin Bieber and wearing glasses like it’s cool – which is offensive to near-sighted guys like me – came from the projects to the forefront of things. Ever since then, emo is definitely an offence and only appealing for little whiny teenage boys and girls that haven’t got the faintest clue what the hell emo-core was all about. But that happened with punk-rock and Green Day like bands before, or metal and Metallica mark 3. But at the least real, punk-rockers and metalheads seem to exist, while true emo-kids seemed to have vanished from the face of the Earth. I guess emo is called “Post-Hardcore” these days and I can totally get why, since no real hardcore or punk person would ever want to be confused with what goes by “emo” now. Which got me thinking – why the hell aren’t all those old emo-core bands valued these days? I know that Moss Icon got a complete discography reedition, but I see a lot more people reliving Youth-Crew, Skate-Punk or Crust than emo bands. And I’m pretty sure that a band like Orchid were pretty capable of bringing a house down, even more so than a lot of the newer crust bands. Maybe I’m alone in all of this, but how about celebrating a lot of the bands that made punk and hardcore evolve? And, well, regarding singing about feelings not being punk enough, I’m guessing that goes for the Ramones too, huh?
I don’t care if emo came from DC, and that Embrace was oh-so-emo, even though I love them. Moss Icon were the shit: they sounded desperate instead of depressed and these guys were so emo that they denied being an influence on emo. They weren’t just crying about their girlfriends, though, they tackled stuff like indigenous rights and US involvement in Guatemala. This band is so good that their guitarist went on to form other excellent bands like Universal Order of Armageddon, Born Against, and The Convocation Of.
The 90s European emo scene was great and Kosjer D are probably the best example of that, even though Belgium is not known for having great bands. These guys were tight and obscure but catchy too, and the artwork of their LP was beautiful, made in cardboard and it looked and sounded weird. They later went on to become Reiziger, which is also good but not nearly as good.
Rites of Spring
Forget about Fugazi and Minor Threat. In between both bands, Ian Mackaye produced the Rites of Spring record, which were like the spiritual heirs of The Faith but with some melody injected. They played emo before emo existed and in fact hated the word, so I guess that nowadays they’re post-hardcore, which is like meh. The lyrics of these guys are angry, passionate and also confrontational like on Persistent Vision: I was the champion of forgive forget / But I haven’t found a way / To forgive you yet.
Bob Tilton were from the U.K. and they sounded like emo clashed with noise or something, because they had this big guitar wall in front of everything else. They were named after the infamous American televangelist and these guys gave no interviews, which was great since their label had no promos either. They put out a handful of singles and 2 LPs: the first one is excellent and the second is really good.
This band was called Heroin, so you know they mean business. These guys were chaotic and intense and legend has it that their shows mirrored that. They only played for about 4 years and were pretty much ignored, but as usual, a lot of people came to praise them after the fact. They are usually described as “screamo,” which makes sense since these guys scream and have stop-start parts that pretty much can make all the objects in a room fly around as if they were in a tornado.
Nation of Ulysses
Wow, if emos are whiny and depressed, then Nation of Ulysses sure as hell aren’t emo. If Malcom X was a bunch of 80s white kids from DC, then this would be it. They’re cool and provocative and maybe a little mod, which was certainly a foreign concept at the time and definitely sounded like nothing else on the Dischord rooster or any other label for that matter. It’s nervous and it makes me edgy to this day, like what the fuck can I do to make all the shit in the world right?
I guess I’m gonna take some shit for putting Abhinanda in this list, but have you heard Senseless? If that guy is not aching then The Smiths aren’t the only pop band punks are allowed to play. Coming from Sweden and very good friends with Refused, Abhinanda had a metal edge in their hardcore but without ever losing the sense of melody and were probably somewhat ahead of their time and, well, they were straight-edge, which can help explain all that suffering and screaming?
Anomie were French and somehow I’ve always associated their emo-ness with punk instead of hardcore, mostly because of their song titles, and maybe also the artwork. They have a cd with all the discography, which I listened to for the last week. Here’s what I can tell you: if you ever felt emo was a one trick pony, you haven’t heard these guys yet.
If Ivich started playing in the 2010s, I guess they would probably be lumped with the post-hardcore bands as well, particularly because they had a trumpet. They also sung in French, and if the screamed parts sound like screamo, the instrumental sometimes resembles more post-punk than anything else, but then again it’s way too weird even for that. It works and they sure as well don’t sound bitchy or fragile.
Zootic were from Portugal, and emo was not really a thing there but there they were, even if they wouldn’t call themselves emo, but I guess no decent band would do that to themselves. They approached political stuff in a more personal fashion, which worked out great and most of the time sang in Portuguese which made things even better and I can tell you that they sound emotional without ever losing their edge.