The Outsider Within
August 10, 2003 8:23 PM   Subscribe

The New York Times runs a front page Arts and Leisure feature on Dashboard Confessional and emo (no! it's not emo! not emo!) in general. It's always fun to see the Grey Lady's earnest, respectful, decidedly National Geographic take on youth subcultures (for example, something tells me the Dawson's Creek anecdote didn't happen quite the way it was reported). Despite its reputation for whiney self absorbment, the Subgenre That Will Not Be Named has produced some masterpieces; will it finally get the (pick one) respect/condemnation it deserves?
posted by Tlogmer (46 comments total)
 
so many jokes... so many, many jokes...
posted by jimmy at 8:48 PM on August 10, 2003


I don't hate emo, I hate emo fans.
posted by Stan Chin at 8:51 PM on August 10, 2003


If you're really old (you know, in your thirties), when you hear the term "emo" you'll more likely think Rites of Spring. Or it might just be me.
posted by gwint at 9:07 PM on August 10, 2003


Oh, this just makes me want to cry on my guitar!
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:11 PM on August 10, 2003


Is emo still happening? Huh.
posted by jokeefe at 9:11 PM on August 10, 2003


I understand absolutely none of this. Is it a music thing? A clothes thing? A food thing?

(sigh)

Gettin' old...
posted by davidmsc at 9:12 PM on August 10, 2003


A quote from a recent music discussion I had on another board:

Bush Doctor: Moshing was good for me about 10 years ago. It was the most exercise I got (besides bangin my old lady).

DVH: I get shitloads of exercise at the shows I frequent now - I'm constantly dodging the puddles of tears that emo kids leave behind.
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:19 PM on August 10, 2003


Rites of Spring. Or Moss Icon. Or Julia. But I'm only KINDA old: 25.
posted by acornface at 9:19 PM on August 10, 2003


I just can't believe there's all this to-do about a Muppet.

What? Why are you all looking at me like that?
posted by Chanther at 9:38 PM on August 10, 2003


I always thought crying at emo songs missed the point; the good ones are mostly about clear-eyed reflection, not misery. A lot of its bad rep comes from misunderstanding (and, of course, from the fans) -- dense chord structures can sound sad to unfamiliar ears.

I think a few more questions are floating around about this -- for example, is most emo effectively music by and for teenagers? If so, do groups playing similar, but more mature music get pigeonholed? Is the attempt to retire the "emo" label any sort of solution (and will it work?)?
posted by Tlogmer at 9:47 PM on August 10, 2003


"If you're really old (you know, in your thirties), when you hear the term "emo" you'll more likely think Rites of Spring."

Nope.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:47 PM on August 10, 2003


All Music Guide, which should be your sacred text when dealing with musical matters, has them listed as both Emo and Alternative Pop. Wow. Problem solved.
posted by woil at 9:54 PM on August 10, 2003


What's with all these Modern Lovers cover bands?
posted by Ptrin at 10:02 PM on August 10, 2003


I'm waiting for Sweet Jesus to show up in this thread. That guy really seems to hate Dashboard Confessional, among other things.
posted by jonson at 10:09 PM on August 10, 2003


The strange thing for me is that imo, not much interest music has been released in the Emo genre in a few years, like now it's getting mainstream attention but the stuff being put out pales in comparison to some of the great Emo bands (ex. Braid's "Frame and Canvas").

Then again it could be possible that my own aging has caused me to move away from that style of music to denser Indie Rock.
posted by drezdn at 10:16 PM on August 10, 2003


Most modern (say, post-'95) emo bands always just sounded like Jawbox ripoffs to me. I loved Jawbox, but you only needed one.

Also, that Times writer is fairly young (I think under 30) and has covered indie culture for various publications. Though he still has to write about emo in the dry Times style, it's not like he's some tweed-wearing professor type chuckling about "the kids." (The new editor of the Arts & Leisure section is twentysomething herself and attuned to more subculturish stuff; I imagine we'll see more articles like this.)
posted by lisa g at 10:18 PM on August 10, 2003


mleck. terrible.
posted by Satapher at 10:23 PM on August 10, 2003


I second what drezdn says about Braid being among the better emo bands. Most emo that gets released today is more along the lines of the embarassingly sentimental Dashboard stuff. Well, practically all of it I guess, but there is some more creative "emo" out there.

The label is often affixed to Bright Eyes and Cursive (Saddle Creek Records) which is too bad, because these guys really break the emo stereotypes with some incredible songwriting and complex arrangements. The New York Times had a similar article about Cursive and the Omaha scene which was similarly awkward to read.
posted by themadjuggler at 10:30 PM on August 10, 2003


mr. crash is right; the one true emo is phillips (I mean, check out the background color on his website). Although I'm concerned he hasn't updated his 'news' blog since June... maybe he didn't survive "his first brave foray into the world of improv".

But, attempting to return to something remotely related to the original topic, "Dashboard Confessional"?
"Glove Compartment Confessional", maybe...
posted by wendell at 10:52 PM on August 10, 2003


Emo: Where the Girls Aren't
posted by sklero at 11:55 PM on August 10, 2003


Twenty replies and not one single link to the Rosetta Stone of 'what emo really is' websites? Tsk tsk, you people are slipping...
posted by monosyllabic at 12:26 AM on August 11, 2003


So all this time, Fugazi were emo and I never knew it? What have I been missing out on...?
posted by humuhumu at 1:03 AM on August 11, 2003


And on Tuesday, Dashboard Confessional releases "A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar" (Vagrant/TVT), a remarkable disc that may become the year's most important rock record.

Someone needs to go to jail for writing that.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:43 AM on August 11, 2003


So its gonna become mainstream, then they'll make a video game and a movie like singles....
posted by X-00 at 4:48 AM on August 11, 2003


And on Tuesday, Dashboard Confessional releases "A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar" (Vagrant/TVT), a remarkable disc that may become the year's most important rock record.

Indeed, that is one of the worst record titles I've ever heard. I laughed aloud when I read it.
How exactly is this going to be one of the year's most important rock records, when it isn't rock, and it won't be important??
*scurries to go and write in his journal*
posted by sinical at 5:16 AM on August 11, 2003


I confess that I know nothing about Emo, except what I've read in this thread and part of the NY Times article, and so I'm confused. Is this considered an offshoot of punk? From the descriptions it sounds about as far away from Punk as the musical spectrum will bear.

Dawson Creek?

I've seen 10 seconds of Dawson Creek and I'm pretty damn sure that it has nothing to do with Punk.
posted by sic at 5:56 AM on August 11, 2003


To the Jawbreaker and Rites of Spring namedroppers: If you had read the linked article, you would see that you have not been forgotten.

Great picks, Tlogmer. I think that emo is mostly shit (or at least, 95% of it is redundant), but Weezer's Pinkerton and Jimmy Eat World's Clarity are tremendous works. I'd add in Bright Eyes' Letting off the Happiness for good measure.
posted by Marquis at 6:43 AM on August 11, 2003


I'm a little surprised at the absence of the band Cap'n Jazz in these links and discussion.

The tight jeans and ironic thrift store T-shirts were okay, the backpacks were stupid, but now emo kids are being spoonfed mesh back trucker hats at the mall.

Check out "Merchants of Cool" for more info.
posted by puddsharp at 7:22 AM on August 11, 2003


Sorry about the last link.

Let's try again.

www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/cool/etc/hunting.html
posted by puddsharp at 7:26 AM on August 11, 2003


Most modern (say, post-'95) emo bands always just sounded like Jawbox ripoffs to me.

Huh. Maybe the "emo" bands I've listened to aren't the real thing but every emo song I've listened to sounds exactly like Superchunk. But that's irrelevant. The question is, who would win in a fight: an emo kid or a male goth? I have this pressing need to know who occupies the very bottom rung of Subculture Fight Club.
posted by furiousthought at 7:26 AM on August 11, 2003


hey, conor oberst: jeff mangum called. HE WANTS HIS CAREER BACK.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:35 AM on August 11, 2003


So all this time, Fugazi were emo and I never knew it? What have I been missing out on...?

Uhm, their last three albums? They're great albums, don't get me wrong, but they're full on emo.

Oh, and as far as the "grey lady" and pop culture, how about thier recent piece on Ween. I thought that was much odder. I mean, emo is at least trying to be taken seriously. But here the NYT is featuring the authors of classics like "Don't S**t Where You Eat." and "Spinal Meningitis Got Me Down".
posted by lumpenprole at 7:45 AM on August 11, 2003


The question is, who would win in a fight: an emo kid or a male goth?

Goth. I've been punched by those pokey rings, and even coming from a malnourished loser, they hurt.
posted by lumpenprole at 7:46 AM on August 11, 2003


you know, my computer jukebox was messed up a couple weeks ago so that every mp3 I added to it was labeled with the genre "punk rock" - which on some songs just made me think, huh, I wouldn't have thought that was exactly punk, but which eventually got applied to some ridiculous enough examples that I realized there was a problem with the settings there. But if the dawson's creek theme song can be called punk by any stretch of whatever, then maybe I was wrong and the jukebox was right all along.

I've never really got the hang of what counts as emo. I'm not particularly good at the genre thing to start with - I generally just split my collection into zone, rock, pop (all in an 'indie' kinda way). I think some bands I like would be filed under emo by some; also sometimes post-punk, math-rock. But I just lump it all under indie rock.
posted by mdn at 8:22 AM on August 11, 2003


From someone truly old... I was given a copy of Swiss Army Romance by a significantly younger significant other. IMH-and-decidedly-much-older-O, Chris Carrabia (sp?) is actually a damn good lyricist and a not-so-bad composer to boot. Carrabia's first two - Swiss Army Romance and Places You Have Come to Fear the Most are both almost all-acoustic; the new one is almost all guitar-band-based arrangements. I hated punk the first time around, so I'm no fan now, emo or not. My young friend, whose a very serious music fan, actually gets pretty worked up at the over-use of the term "emo," since so much of what's classified emo by mainstream press now seems to be pretty bland indie-pop kinds of stuff.
posted by JollyWanker at 9:39 AM on August 11, 2003


I still don't understand the whole emo thing-- which is my way of saying I don't like it. So 'emo' is short for 'emotional'? Well, isn't most good music emotional in some way? The only emotion that ever seems to be expressed in these songs is the whiny, immature heartbreak of someone who's in his early twenties and thinks his life is over now that his girlfriend has dumped him and all he has left is his job at the record store and his Easy Mac. Also, he beats himself up a lot. All set to some bastard son of pop-punk (which was a bastard son to begin with).

I mean, if it was meant to be a reaction to the stereotypical gen-X disaffection, that would be kind of cool, but in that case all it means is that these people have the emotional maturity of a six-year-old. If you want to put emotion back in your songs, it helps to have some emotional depth.

Oh, and as far as the "grey lady" and pop culture, how about thier recent piece on Ween. I thought that was much odder. I mean, emo is at least trying to be taken seriously.

Yeah, but Ween are better musicians and songwriters than any emo band I can think of (and for that matter, a great deal of bands, period). They just have an (insanely) goofy sense of humor.

So its gonna become mainstream, then they'll make a video game and a movie like singles....

Yeah, I think it's called "Whiny Singles".
posted by nath at 10:49 AM on August 11, 2003


So 'emo' is short for 'emotional'? Well, isn't most good music emotional in some way? The only emotion that ever seems to be expressed in these songs is the whiny, immature heartbreak of someone who's in his early twenties...

nath, that's an incredibly broad and inaccurate generalization.

"Emo" is a dumb word to describe the genre, but in its historical context, it might make a bit more sense: it was coined almost 20 years ago, when the only emotions that were really represented in hardcore were rage and defiance. Then bands like Rites of Spring came along and wrote songs equally ferocious, but with a wider range of emotion. So, to slap a label on that branch of hardcore (which was begat by punk), the scene turned to its typical naming convention: descriptor+"core".

So, as hardcore evolved into metalcore, posi-core, melodicore and the like, now there was also an emocore, which just became 'emo.' Yeah, it's a totally undescriptive term laden with bad connotations, and that's why most 'emo' bands don't use that word to describe themselves.
posted by redshifter at 11:30 AM on August 11, 2003


nath, that's an incredibly broad and inaccurate generalization.

This is true-- but it's based on my experience with what I know as being called "emo". And I've hated it all.

The history of the term is interesting and makes some sense, but I don't think that jives with what is being called "emo" today. The stuff I'm familiar with, at least, is much more like what I described.

Then again, I had a roommate who listened to nothing but what he called emo for an entire year... it was pretty much entirely like I described (occasionally a pissed-off-at-my-ex instead of self-pitying-over-my-ex band would sneak in), and made me want to stab the singers in the eye with a pen.

You'll forgive me, I hope, if these experiences have caused me to take a dim view of anything labeled "emo".
posted by nath at 1:40 PM on August 11, 2003


So, as hardcore evolved into metalcore, posi-core, melodicore and the like, now there was also an emocore, which just became 'emo.' Yeah, it's a totally undescriptive term laden with bad connotations, and that's why most 'emo' bands don't use that word to describe themselves.

Redshifter is right. The term "emo" has been co-op'ed by magazines (I'm looking at you, Spin) and TV as the "Next Big Thing", and really has next to nothing to do with traditional emo-core bands. There's lots of "nu"-emo out there now, which is just mall pop-punk with whiny lyrics.

I'm waiting for Sweet Jesus to show up in this thread. That guy really seems to hate Dashboard Confessional, among other things.

I only have time for a quick comment, but yeah, you're right. I hate the fucking Dashboard Confessional, among other things.
posted by SweetJesus at 1:42 PM on August 11, 2003


emo is false metal.
posted by drobot at 1:48 PM on August 11, 2003


There's lots of "nu"-emo out there now, which is just mall pop-punk with whiny lyrics.

Yeah, I mean, when I think emo, this is what I think. And it's not so much that I have trouble with any music that could have called itself emo, I have trouble with this stuff. The Times feature seems to talk exclusively about this kind of garbage when mentioning the current-day bands who are labeled "emo" (It does briefly delve into the history, but it's mostly talking about what's happening to emo today as it blows up or whatever, and all the bands mentioned, that are taking part in that, right now, are puke). And God, those lyrics they excerpted were awful.
posted by nath at 2:13 PM on August 11, 2003


bleh emo. talk about going and taking something harsh like old punk and stripping it of what makes it good...

But you know what's funny? I liked Fugazi and all, but some songs are painful to listen to.

I didnt even know what emo was until about 2000, and I grew up listening to punk. is Sunny Day Real Estate emo? that would explain a lot
posted by shadow45 at 2:46 PM on August 11, 2003


How about Rainer Maria? When Past Worn Searching came out, I would sit in my college dorm room and cry for days. Listening to the pop-emo nowadays just makes me mad.

Is ticklemeemo.com still around?
posted by emoeby at 3:05 PM on August 11, 2003


Most modern (say, post-'95) emo bands always just sounded like Jawbox ripoffs to me

every emo song
I've listened to sounds exactly like Superchunk

It's a matter of taste, of course, but if everything in a genre sounds the same to you, you're probably not getting it. Music is not a universal language (self-link)
posted by Tlogmer at 3:43 PM on August 11, 2003


bleh emo. talk about going and taking something harsh like old punk and stripping it of what makes it good...

respectfully, shadow45, that's exactly how it evolved, except maybe your definition of "what makes it good" differs from what the Fathers/Mothers of Hardcore thought...

"Hardcore" was, in many senses, a reaction to the mindlessness of Punk. While Punk (god bless it) was often about "no future," getting obliterated, and self-marginalization for the sake of self-marginalization, hardcore was trying to affect real change. It was organized, political, anti-drug a lot of the time. No less angry, no less chaotic -- but focused.

See also: http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emo

And yeah -- there's a lot of "nu-emo" out there right now which is just crap crap crap. But damn, toss in some Hoover or Quicksand or Braid or Jawbreaker (among so many others), and it'll rip you apart. And seeing it live, well... that's a whole other story entirely. I love that stuff.
posted by redshifter at 3:58 PM on August 11, 2003


I'm currently wearing a Get Up Kids t-shirt, the founders of Vagrant Records. But before you make fun of me, understand that the bassist is an old childhood friend (and they're not really emo, anyway), and realistically, this is the closest I'm ever going to be to knowing a rockstar...
posted by justin at 11:51 PM on August 11, 2003


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