You can’t throw a metaphorical rock on the Internet these days without hitting a trend piece about the resurgence of 90’s emo on a major news outlet (in the case of Buzzfeed, we’ll put “news” in heavy quotation marks). In some ways this is surprising, but perhaps it shouldn’t be. The genre has been exploding in popularity over the past several years, producing an immense number of quality bands and a renewed interest in where this music actually came from. Honest music from talented musicians is getting the attention it deserves, and it’s tough to argue that’s a bad thing.
Frequently left out of this discussion, however, are the bands that forged the genre’s heavier and noisier periphery. While much of the dialogue surrounding the recent emo resurgence has focused on its more poppy and melodic elements, it’s worth revisiting the genre’s angrier side as well. Call it screamo (or its Internet-speak derivative, “skramz”) or post-hardcore or whatever you will, the movement (which never really fully ended) produced a number of acts in the early days that continue to influence newer bands today.
Few bands epitomized this sound better than Saetia. By their own definition, Saetia were a hardcore band. By popular definition, however, they were unequivocally a screamo band. The New York City-based four-piece, whose members would later go on to form Hot Cross and Off Minor (and also shared drummer Greg Drudy with the initial lineup of Interpol in the late 90′s), showed that hardcore could at once be smart, heartfelt, and pissed. Along with similarly minded East coast acts like pg.99 and Orchid, they took the sonic foundation laid by the early 90’s Gravity Records roster and pushed it sufficiently far enough in new directions to establish a generational divide in the genre’s history. Continue reading…
As a genre, technical metalcore (or math metal, or noisecore, or whatever else you want to call it) is both efficient and effective in the way it regulates itself for quality. Nailing rapid-fire tempo changes in 7/4 convincingly and with attitude takes an incredibly high level of musicianship, and if you’re looking for a way to easily latch onto a passing fad, this is the wrong genre for you. That means if you’re going to do this kind of music, then you have to do it right or not at all; its technical requirements demand it, and no one listening is going to have patience with you for just fucking around. Continue reading…
When American Nightmare released Background Music in 2001, it’s doubtful anyone would have guessed how far reaching its influence on hardcore would ultimately become. A high water mark for the genre to some and dramatically overhyped to others, the record blended early 80’s hardcore at its most nihilistic with the bleak prose of frontman Wes Eisold, eschewing self-righteous sloganeering and tough-guy posturing in favor of aching catharsis. While few could argue they were truly revolutionary, by applying a few creative tweaks to an existing template, they were able to create a sound and establish an identity that was uniquely their own in its time. Continue reading…
If there’s anything I’ve learned this week, it’s when your friends tell you to bike across town in the cold late on a work night to see their friends play in a crappy metal bar, you just do it. That’s what I did anyway, and it turns out it wasn’t as regreattable of a decision as logic would seem to dictate. The band in question happened to be Sarasota, Florida noise / indie pop duo Teach Me Equals, a pair that blends cello, programmed beats, and a copious amount of effects pedals to create a sound that’s remarkably full for a two-piece. If you’re into stuff like Bjork or Massive Attack, then they’ll probably turn your crank. Check them out with the stream below, and get your … crank … turned.
We’re not feeling creative this afternoon, you guys.
Not everyone may have heard of Restorations, but we’d bet good money that most people who have are fans. Striking a balance between post-hardcore, sludge metal, and straight-forward rock and roll, the band has built a passionate following over the past several years that is continuing to grow. While they’re now days away from hitting the road with Weatherbox en route to The Fest 12 in support of their second full-length, appropriately titled LP2, it’s almost difficult to believe there was once a time where the band’s future success looked any less certain. Vocalist / guitarist Jon Loudon recently took some time to talk to us about how they got to where they are now, balancing work and band life, the benefits of strong label backing, and more. Continue reading…
When an old-school screamo band can claim that former Orchid and current Ampere frontman Will Killingsworth mastered their most recent record, it’s worth sitting up and paying attention. Portland, Oregon’s Carrion Spring are such an act, and their recently released EP, Indiscretions//V.1, sees the band firing away on all cylinders. Chaotic yet always firmly in control, their sound is heavily reminiscent of La Quiete or The Kidcrash; abrasive and impassioned, yet subtlely melodic enough to stay catchy. Continue reading…
Separation Sunday is The Hold Steady’s greatest album. Almost Killed Me was a decent first album, and served as a good warm-up, but its recursive play on the phrase “hold steady” seemed to overwhelm much of the album, and not in a necessarily positive way. The critically acclaimed Boys And Girls In America is a strong contender with songs like “Stuck Between Stations” and the massive ballad “First Night.” But, for someone who does not abide any form of religion or Belief, The Hold Steady’s sophomore album is a religious experience. I can’t help but want to believe in the psuedo-Catholic visions that the characters experience while they party their way from Midwestern capitals to historic neighborhoods in Florida. I can’t help but look up every reference that I don’t understand so that I can understand it.
The album is so lyrically dense it borders on the literary, with its recurring characters and themes of Midwestern boredom, religious iconography, and drug use. As singer-songwriter Craig Finn starts speak-yowling through an echo on the opening track “Hornets! Hornets!” you understand that you’re in for a different experience than most rock albums. I mean, how often do you hear a song that references Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill?” And it’s one of the first things we learn about Finn’s central character Holly (“Her parents named her Hallelujah” opening lyrics to album-closer, “How A Resurrection Really Feels”), that the song got “scratched into her soul.” Music is one of the most important and universal ways that people connect and using a reference to such a powerful song from the 80’s immediately tells you who this girl is, not only as a character, but as a person. That’s the beauty of Finn’s characters—burnt out and Born Again Holly, pimp Charlemagne, and skinhead Gideon—as they pop in and out of the album: they feel like real people.
Separation Sunday is a bar-rock/lit-rock concept album that is as much about story-telling as an art form as it is about the stories being told. It’s more a work of short fiction than anything, a collection of the crazy things you hear about the friends of your friends whom you’ve never met, but know all too well. These songs, like crowd-favorite banger “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” and the waltz “Don’t Let Me Explode,” play like the campfire/back-room-pub narration and on more than one occasion I have considered transcribing the album into some other medium, be it film or graphic novel because the album begs to be heard, it begs to be shared. My love for album-closer “How A Resurrection Really Feels,” where we are treated to a heart-breaking and inspiring portrait of Holly in some form of recovery, alone aims to be shouted from the rooftops.
This isn’t a background album. You can’t just go about your life while it plays nonchalantly through your speakers or earbuds. You have to sit and listen to what is being spoke-sang to you about these kids from the Midwest just trying to figure it all out, and having a hell of a time doing so. In a way Separation Sunday is about the human experience and the interconnectivity that lies between all these silly little lives being lead on this silly little planet we call Earth. We exist, and all these people outside of us exist, and their stories filter through our own and vice versa. The connections are there, you just have to listen. The Hold Steady want you to know that you are not alone.
It’s interesting to imagine a world where things went differently for Rival Schools.
When the band’s now-classic debut album, United By Fate, hit stores in 2001, all the right pieces appeared to be in place for the band to attain a serious level of mainstream success. Swept up in the emo and post-hardcore major label feeding frenzy of the late 90s and early 2000s along with bands like Jimmy Eat World and At The Drive-In, they had an accessible sound, plenty of media buzz, and a strong pedigree featuring former members of influential 90s alt-rock act Quicksand and hardcore outfit CIV (amongst a laundry list of other hardcore luminaries). For a few brief moments, it looked as though they were on the cusp of blowing up, or at the very least, laying down the foundation for what could have been a prolific future along with their peers.
Instead, the same major label machine that thrust them into the spotlight just as quickly tore them apart.
While writing follow-up to United By Fate, the band became mired in conflict with their label over creative differences, eventually growing frustrated to the point of throwing in the towel. The completed recordings were scraped, appearing on file sharing networks and only just recently given a formal release under the title Found earlier this year. The members went on to form a myriad of other bands and projects, and soon enough, Rival Schools was put on a nearly decade-long hiatus.
This is a well known story by now, but regardless, it still becomes all the more regrettable while revisiting United By Fate. After giving the record a solid listen through, it holds up as well now as it did when it first released, with no bad songs among its 13 tracks of thick, swirling post-hardcore riffs and enormous hooks. With particular strong points including album opener “Travel By Telephone,” the pensive “Undercovers On,” and lead single “Used For Glue,” it’s hard to reason why this record was never elevated past cult status. It’s a record that still feels perpetually on the cusp of getting the level of attention it deserved; none of your friends will argue its greatness, but somehow no one ever thinks to bring it up in the same discussion as, say, Bleed American or Relationship Of Command.
If you haven’t spun United By Fate in a while, now is as good a time as any to go back to its understated charms. Despite being just over 12 years old at this point, it wouldn’t sound out of place if it had come out yesterday. The band’s second (or third, depending on how look at it) record, 2011’s Pedals, is a solid effort as well, but this one deserves special attention for its longevity. It feels a bit odd to call a record so critically acclaimed underrated, but in comparison to the band’s peers, it certainly seems to have been somewhat overshadowed. Could that have changed if the band were to continue without an absence from the scene for more than half a decade? Would Rival Schools have reached the degree of adoration they initially seemed poised to garner?
We’ll never know, but regardless, United By Fate remains as one hell of a record. If nothing else, that’s one thing we can be absolutely certain of.
Aside from Curl Up And Die and Caravels, there are exactly zero bands that I know of that have come from Las Vegas. However, that just makes ambient post-hardcore band Alaska that much more interesting. Named after a state with a culture and climate that’s as much the opposite of their decadent desert city, the band plays aggressive yet thoughtful melodic experimental rock that’s somewhat similar to peers like Native, although prettier on the melodic end and more aggressive on the heavier side. It’s refreshing to hear a band dabbling in this kind of territory without fully committing to any one particular scene or trend, and their most recently released full-length, Everything Is Fine, is all the stronger for it. You can check it out below:
I don’t know if it’s a phase we all go through, but early on in my high school career I began to delve into music from the past. I had never been into much music older than myself or really anything that my mother listened to when she was young, but around the time I began to really understand music as a channel for emotion and more, I asked my mother for advice on music. Instead of finding what I thought would be “old fogy” music, she introduced me to Rock’n’Roll. My mother showed me things like Led Zeppelin’s IV, The Moody Blues, and the subject of today’s Throwback Thursday, King Crimson’s In The Court Of The Crimson King.
I was looking for things to download on a peer-to-peer site called Grokster when she suggested I listen to a band she had loved when she was my age called King Crimson. The first song I found was a song called “21st Century Schizoid Man.” The opening track to King Crimson’s 1969 magnum opus In The Court Of The Crimson King, “21st Century Schizoid Man” is a fuzz-filled stomper that instantly shocked me. Never having paid much attention to music, I had never heard, or recognized, fuzz before on anything that was released prior to the 90’s and I couldn’t believe how loud and brash the guitars were, how singer Greg Lake could howl in such a distorted manner that he sounded like a robot losing his mind. Then, halfway through the song, comes the jazz-inspired freakout called “Mirrors,”—because what is a song by a progressive rock band without individual movements within said song—that makes up most of the composition.
The album consists of only five songs, but clocks in at roughly forty-five minutes. The third track, “Epitaph,” is a ballad featuring dystopian lyrics and vocals that croon over mellotron and woodwinds. The song that officially sealed the deal on my love for this band, even if I’ve never heard or never hear anything else by them, is the final track on the album, the title track “In The Court Of The Crimson King.” The song, another ballad whose main riffs lies heavily on the mellotron, consists of four verses (telling the story of a court gathering in a, for lack of a better descriptor, fantasy realm) but stretches to an impressive nine minutes. The verses are broken up by an instrumental section called, “The Return Of The Fire Witch.” Seriously, it just doesn’t get more awesome than that. The song is incredibly beautiful, building into a soaring crescendo that cuts off, leaving the listener hanging in the most satisfying way. Give it a listen, expand your musical taste, and remember, always trust your mother.