Reclaiming pop punk and emo?
|Aidil Rusli loves rock 'n' roll, still believes in the words "indie" and "underground", and after all these years still sings in his band Couple myspace.com/couple. You can get in touch with Aidil by emailing: [email protected]|
JUNE 2 — Nowadays pop punk and emo are such dirty words that many self-respecting music fans will never actually admit to loving them. Just like grunge and alternative were similarly dirty words during their commercial peak, pop punk and emo have become a sort of cheap joke and an easy target simply because there are now too many average or plain bad bands claiming to be part of the movement, severely diluting its initial power and impact.
Don’t even get me started on the whole screamo subgenre, and its subsequent metalcore spawn, now trending on our shores way past the point where it’s even considered respectable or cool to play screamo or metalcore anymore.
There was a time when I still paid attention to new pop punk and emo bands, both major label and indie ones, hoping to catch something brilliant to accompany my days and nights musically, but it’s been a long while since anything from this camp has excited me at all.
Still, there’s a very special place in my heart for pop punk and emo, as these are genres I consider building blocks of my music-listening youth. I was buying cassettes (or having shops make cassette copies of CDs) left, right and centre when Green Day broke through to the mainstream and bands on Lookout! Records, Epitaph Records and Fat Wreck Chords were making a killing with their album sales.
In fact, I learned so much about writing songs with sugary melodies based around only three or four chords from listening to pop punk bands as different as The Smoking Popes, The Mr T Experience, Screeching Weasel, The Queers, The Muffs, Sonic Surf City and Beatnik Termites.
Some of them wrote about love, some about icky and fun adolescent stuff, and some were just plain silly, but all of them showed me the value of getting in and out and making an impression in as little time and in as simple a way as possible.
And they were always fun to listen to. When I was studying in the UK, I was lucky enough to catch some of them “live”, and they’re similarly fun to watch onstage too. When I was in the UK from 1997 to 2000, another underground phenomenon began to take hold in the USA, which people now call emo, and again I was lucky to stumble upon it and absorb the many albums and songs that make the movement tick.
I’d still call it some sort of an extension of pop punk, as even though emo has its roots in the hardcore scene, the wonderful energy and melodies that characterize emo’s leading lights like The Get Up Kids, The Promise Ring and Jimmy Eat World are undoubtedly rooted in the joyous and goofy world of pop punk.
Anyone who’s witness to this now almost lost art of earnest and emotional pop songs will notice that however emotional or whiny the lyrics may be, the feel and the melodies of the songs never fail to make you want to jump with joy, a sort of emotional release.
I’ve heard loads of good pop punk and emo records since the mid-2000s, but very few excite me the way listening to Jimmy Eat World’s “Clarity” or The Get Up Kids’ “Something To Write Home About” do, let alone Weezer’s emo-birthing “Pinkerton.”
But this year has brought not one, but two albums that excite me in the same way that the aforementioned albums have. The first one is the latest album by a band that I already love called Cloud Nothings, which still came as a surprise to me as there was little hint in their previous albums that they were going to turn all pop punk and emo on us as they’ve previously quite comfortably occupied the lo-fi, indie pop and indie rock end of the spectrum.
Maybe it took coming into contact with producer Steve Albini, or maybe it’s simply all the touring they’ve done the past year as a full band, but their latest album “Attack On Memory” is like emo adventurers Cap’N Jazz gone way tighter and with an even better sense of hook and melody.
An even more pleasant surprise is Joyce Manor, a band I was introduced to which was described to me as “Blue album Weezer”, and while that is partly true on certain songs, it is the tunefulness and energy of The Get Up Kids and again the reckless adventure of Cap’N Jazz that really comes to mind when I first heard their songs.
Now signed to legendary ska punk label Asian Man Records, even during the first listen I found them to be effortlessly irresistible, inducing a huge grin on my face and clenched fists to sing along or shout the lyrics into the air.
In fact, so hard did I fall in love with them that I’ve hunted down every single piece of recording that they’ve released so far, from EPs and split singles with other bands down to their 2009 demo, and they’ve royally impressed me with every single song.
It looks like they’re slowly breaking out of the US punk rock ghetto as well, and together with Cloud Nothings’ brand of energetic pop punk and already increased visibility, let’s hope that these two bands will breathe new life into the long creatively stagnant pop punk and emo scenes. I for one would not object if these 2 bands start trending, and spawn countless imitators (good ones, of course!).
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.