This is why I cannot respect Andy Greenwald’s opinion on emo:
Obviously, taste is taste. Opinion, opinion.
But if this man is the guy who’s supposed to be the emo know-it-all (read: self-created title/Spin created title), I’m not buying it. The guy doesn’t seem to understand the impulse that emo acts have towards evolution, probably because the very thesis of Nothing Feels Good denies this concept.
He denied Sunny Day any post-Diary existence in his book, cramming much of their timeline into a brief paragraph and noting their later stuff for its prog leanings versus any relationship to emo.
He seemed happier to call The Promise Ring’s Wood/Water “joyless” than express the band’s need to let their music grow, saying when they performed it live opening for Jimmy Eat World, “When Davey strummed his acoustic guitar to thousands of eager teenagers at a sold-out Roseland Ballroom in New York City, he was greeted with implacable silence, the sight of an entire generation of music fans regarding him like they had just caught their dad moshing” (NFG, p 125). Opinions abound about Wood/Water, but Greenwald was more than elated to include this one show as evidence that TPR went “dad rock” and left emo, when in fact their new music retained much of the spirit of earlier albums, but held a newfound sense of wonder and exploration into non three-chord territory. And why did the kids greet the band with silence? How many big, sold-out shows did you go to for the opening act? It’s commonplace for fans at big ballroom/arena shows not to know a damn thing about an opener: when they’re playing music like what’s on Wood/Water, what’s a more appropriate response than simply watching in silence? (Go to an acoustic show where you don’t know the musician and see how you react).
Greenwald wrote this about Chris Carrabba:
“And I think: in some small way, it’s already past him. Dashboard Confessional was an emo moment, not an emo career. Carrabba may have many more years and songs ahead of him, but those frustrated, tormented ballads will live on. His worst moments may well outlive his best moments. He has pushed the punk/emo model as far as it can go…” (p 265)
He wrote that just before A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar came out, before Carrabba really broke emo into the mainstream, remade “Hands Down” into a genuine hit and a car commercial-worthy song, and became a Billboard-topping recording artist at number 2. And then again in 2006 at number 2. And then again in 2007 at number 18. And all performing music that, gasp, was in the exact same vein as before.
Greenwald got all that dead wrong, and he’s dead wrong about Brand New. Considering Greenwald is speaking for what is believed to be the voice of emo for critics, for some reason his voice holds some water, even after emo continued to conquer the Billboard charts in ways he hadn’t properly predicted when he wrote Nothing Feels Good. His opinion is his opinion, but to say that Brand New hasn’t written any new material as an “emo conessuire” all while practically every other critic has hailed the band’s last two releases, and fans have pushed their music to the top of the Billboard charts (number 6 just today). Something just doesn’t add up. Considering Greenwald considers himself the “voice of emo” and yet he cannot seem to fathom why or how or that Brand New could write their new material is plain laughable. I’m all for dissenting opinions, but I find his just kind of ridiculous.
Brand New – “Gasoline”:
Jesus, this cut from “Daisy” is on some weird noise shit. The album went through my head with no discernable prints on first listen, but it’s clearly gonna have to get spun again tonight. As for “Nothing Feels Good,” it still did a good job turning me on to some great records. It sort of has a narrative that’s about the rise of Emo to a bankable form of pop music as opposed to a strutcturally pop form of indie/punk that also mutated into a lot of more extreme stuff. This is fine, it turns people on to some great records. However, Cap’n Jazz, Antioch Arrow, Grade, & You and I all kinda occupy a cult territory that makes them worth passing on, especially in terms of really testing collisions with the harder, more literate and gothier ends of the spectrum. Each made at least a few masterpieces.
Yeah man, it took me a couple of listens for Daisy to really sink in, but “Gasoline” stuck out almost immediately. It just went for the jugular and shimmied it’s way into my head.
I’ll agree with you on certain points: for every kid who picked that book up and stumbled upon TPR, SDRE, Rites of Spring, great. It also turned me on in ways I couldn’t have imagined, but that’s more from Greenwald’s writing style. Which I found rather patronizing. There’s no question that Greenwald tracked emo’s rise as a marketable term – hell, the feeling I got from the book was that it was chasing the market in and of itself. And I cannot agree with many of the close-minded sentiments the guy makes when he tries to fit it all in a nicely-wrapped box. And even when it comes to bankable pop music, the guy completely ignored Fugazi, who (whether or not you can put that band and emo in the same paragraph, have had an undeniable influence on future emo acts to come) may consider themselves something of an obscure band but nevertheless occupied a territory on Billboard and in the hearts and minds of countless music fans without any gimmickry years before Rich Egan took to marketing wizardry so Vagrant bands to gain those same chart spots.
…but, I digress… In any case, I felt that Greenwald thinks of himself of being the authority on emo, and wrote NFG as a form of pop music, but never gave it the time of day to really grow in the pop spectrum. Because had he waited just a few years, half his book would be singing a completely different tune…
In any case, the mere appearance of NFG is enough to keep me motivated to hunt down more interviewees and continue to add to America Is Just A Word and get that stuff rolling even while I’ve got plenty else to worry about at the moment, and I guess that’s a pretty positive thing there.