Sunday, August 23, 2009
We've all seen them. Unisex haircuts over their eyes. Studded belts. Thick rimmed glasses and tight jeans. Some of the boys paint their nails. They write shitty poetry about cutting themselves. And they listen to bands like Fallout Boy and Paramore. And they claim bands like Jimmy Eat World as the forefathers of the genre. A perhaps inevitable evolution of punk, they are emo. But like punk, there is a big difference between mainstream emo and the roots of the genre.
When I say mainstream contemporary punk, you say Green Day or The Offspring. But real punk began in the 70's with bands like the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and the Clash. Bands that came to popularity as "punk" in the 90's cited these groups as influences, but the underground music scene took different influences from punk and that is where emo came from. But its a long story. For all intents and purposes, this original underground emo is called post-hardcore and it started in the 80's. Post-hardcore didn't sound too different from punk, but lyrics were geared more towards internal emotional issues than the class warfare roots of punk (hence the name, "Emo"tional Harcore). Early post-hardcore bands include Fugazi, Rites of Spring, Jawbox, Helmet, Glassjaw, Drive Like Jehu, Cap'n Jazz and At the Drive-In (pictured above).
These post-hardcore musicians don't really have a lot in common with the current day emo stereotype. The style of dress was simpler for one; just the tight jeans and tee-shirts. Chuck Taylors, a hold over from punk, became the popular footwear. If you ever went to school in the last 15 years with someone who was punk, chances are they listened to many of the above bands.
The sound is a far cry from the radio friendly emo most people associate with the movement as well. The gentle melodies of Fallout Boy or Jimmy Eat World are nothing like the dissonant odd-tempo guitars of Jehu or the screeching high pitched vocals of Drive-In. Post-hardcore can be an acquired taste for many. And whereas the mainstream emo bands continue to pump out radio friendly hits, the post-hardcore artists continue to experiment with new sounds in underground and local music scenes. Almost all of the above post-hardcore bands are long since dead, but pretty much everyone in this bands has been in at least one or two other new bands since, all equally unheard of in the mainstream.
Interested in the real evolution of punk? A couple other bands to check out are Engine Down, Jets to Brazil, Jawbreaker, Sunny Day Real Estate, Texas is the Reason, Q and not U, The Mars Volta, Pretty Girls Make Graves, and The Blood Brothers. All of these bands have at least some roots in the post-hardcore movement, either through being major influences in the scene or through consisting of many of the members of past influential bands. Sphere: Related Content