After a brief foray into angst-y Pop Punk during the noughties, the name and genre that is “Emo” is now back in its twinkly, slow-burning comforting home. Labels like Count Your Lucky Stars and bands such as Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate), Dowsing, Nai Harvest and Football, etc are pushing forward an “original emo” revival and frankly, we love it.
However, we don’t want forget how the genre paved the way for this revival. The 1990’s produced an array of emo bands that continue to be an influence today. American Football, The Promise Ring, Sunny Day Real Estate, Mineral, Texas Is The Reason, Christie Front Drive, Braid, Jimmy Eat World and The Get Up Kids are just some of those bands that are often cited as influences for many of today’s bands.
For this edition of “Fives,” the Already Heard team have selected their five best Emo albums from the 1990’s.
The Promise Ring – Very Emergency
The Promise Ring’s ‘Very Emergency’ is almost a 00’s record, with the release in 1999, but I’m glad it’s within the constraints of this feature so I can write about my undying love for this record. The Promise Ring were a prominent band in the 90’s and are recognised as one of the pioneers of the 90’s “emo” genre. ‘Very Emergency’ is the third record released by them, and by far my favourite.
For a long time I favoured ‘Nothing Feels Good’ as it was an introductory record to this genre for me but growing up and venturing to other albums I couldn’t help but fall into a whirlwind romance with ‘Very Emergency. Tracks like ‘Jersey Shore’ and ‘Happiness Is All The Rage’ are great examples of indie pop written well but still with the emotional feel of ‘Nothing Feels Good. It surpasses’Nothing Feels Good’ for me because with this record they continued their adventure into the depths of writing positive music instead of laying forlorn like in the previous works. It may also be the most accessible of all of their records and it’s the simplicity of this that makes it so appealing. (RK)
Christie Front Drive – Stereo
Christie Front Drive were formed in Denver Colorado in 1993. They broke up in 1997, which is why I think that they are often overlooked. In those few years the band released an untitled EP, various 7” records and split’s. Posthumously came the record referred to as ‘Stereo’, although the album is actually untitled.
For me, ‘Stereo’ has everything that I want from the genre. The sparse lyrics of ‘Saturday’ to follow up ‘Radio’ with it’s catchy guitar work that slowly builds yet keeps itself restrained. The band’s lyrics are often hard to decode, they are minimal, and live they often changed depending on mood, however they manage to convey the emotion singer Eric Richter wants and often cut right to the core.
‘Seven Day Candle’ closes out the record, it’s another perfect example of how the band manage to combine sparse lyrics with fantastic instrumentation to create emotion; “I wait and all the time goes, I wait until the time slows and I, Never bring you down, so never ask me. And I wait.”That’s it. Six lines convey everything you need to know, the rest is in the way it’s sung, the way the guitars rise and fall. Everything just in it’s right place.
The beauty of Christie Front Drive is that although quite simple, the songs have such great melodies that they worm their way into your head. Get stuck there, and the lyrics begin to really sink in. When it all clicks into place, the band becomes a favourite. Sometimes, you can see their influence in bands that are around now, and that makes me smile, but also wish for the band to still be active and releasing music. However, a reunion is probably off the cards so you’ll just have to get stuck into the records Christie Front Drive left behind. (RC)
Sunny Day Real Estate – Diary
With their roots in the Seattle grunge scene of the early 90’s, Sunny Day Real Estate took that yearning angst and combined it with emotional rawness to create a cohesive and impassioned in ‘Diary.’ Released in 1994, ‘Diary’ is earmarked as one of the most influential records within the genre and with good reason.
Throughout Jeremy Enigk’s unique vocals merge brilliantly well with the band’s tight musicianship. Tracks like ‘In Circles’ and ‘47’ leave you in a haze as Enigk and company take a suitable soft build, heavy payoff route that is executed with great care from start to finish.
Unlike some records that are labelled as “classics,” in my opinion ‘Diary’ is exactly that as Sunny Day Real Estate’s engaging sound spearheaded a whole load of bands and the emo genre itself. (SR)
The Get Up Kids – Something to Write Home About
Few albums can claim as much influence over modern emo and pop-punk as The Get Up Kids’ 1999 album ‘Something to Write Home About’. These twelve tracks have made their way onto a near infinite number mixtapes and seen a million broken hearted kids, myself included, through horrible breakups.
‘Something to Write Home About’ is nothing if not heartfelt. The perfect mixture of hope and sorrow, of songs to shout along to and moments to sit back and revel in. Eternally relevant to anyone who ever had a heart, this album, arriving at the end of the genre’s defining decade, sits at its pinnacle.
Track by track it only gets stronger with each subsequent listen and it’s difficult to put a finger on an essential song without plainly recommending the album as a whole. The story goes that Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus proposed with album closer ‘I’ll Catch You’ playing in the background and regardless of celebrity backing this is one of the most well known and beloved tracks on offer. At the other end of the album is ‘Holiday’, opening matters with pounding drums and the first of Matt Pryor’s astounding vocal performances. Both vocals and guitars move from impassioned desperation to soft, beautiful musings in a beat of your broken heart as ‘Red Letter Day’ gives way to the acoustic opening of ‘Out of Reach’ and as the ‘I’m a Loner Dottie, a Rebel…’ folds to one of the record’s most famous lyrical moments there’s little to do let The Get Up Kids win your heart.
Simply, this ranks amongst not only amongst the quintessential emo albums but alternative albums in general. Would your favourite current band be who they were today without the influence of this record? I’m guessing there’s an interview somewhere in which they plead that they couldn’t possibly be. Absolute perfection. (TK)
Jawbreaker – 24 Hour Revenge Therapy
During the ten years that Jawbreaker were active they managed to produce four very individual sounding albums. Whilst their later recordings failed to match the rawness of ‘Unfun’ or the aggression of ‘Bivouac,’ it was ‘24 Hour Revenge Therapy,’ released in 1994, that bridged the gap between aggressive pop punk and emo.
Whilst ‘24 Hour Revenge Therapy’ is today seen as a pivotal album in the history of emo, it was poorly received within the punk community due to Jawbreaker’s apparent success after supporting Nirvana for six dates. Fans feared that they would sign to a major (which they eventually did for 1995’s ’Dear You’) although it was clear at that point that the band were beginning to tire of the scene politics and expectations. Without tracks like ‘Boxcar’ and ‘Do You Still Hate Me?’ I think it’d be fair to say that we wouldn’t have bands like Transit, My Chemical Romance or The Wonder Years today. (RH)
Words by Sean Reid (SR), Rosie Kerr (RK), Ryan Clayton (RC), Thomas Knott (TK) and Richard Heaven (RH).