For this edition of “Fives” we once again get all nostalgic as Already Heard’s Sean Reid and Tom Knott reminisce on Vagrant Records and five releases from around the millennium.
In the early 2000’s, Vagrant Records thrived of the success on The Get Up Kids’ 1999 album ‘Something To Write Home About’ and in the following years it become home to some of the best punk and emo bands around, from Dashboard Confessional to Saves The Day to Rocket from the Crypt to Alkaline Trio and more.
It’s influence and impact is still going strong today and bands from that period are still benefiting from now, as the success from their Vagrant releases opened them up to wider audiences, helped establish themselves and grow their fan base.
From a music fan’s perspective, I (Sean) remember how much of an influence Vagrant’s ‘Another Year On The Streets’ compilations had on my music tastes and opened me up to many bands that I still listen to today.
Although this edition of “Fives” isn’t the best Vagrant Records albums, they our favourite and influential records from that period.
Alkaline Trio – From Here to Infirmary
The third album from Chicago’s Alkaline Trio was their Vagrant début and introduced the band to a new audience. Despite ‘Stupid Kid’ and ‘Private Eye’ receiving plenty of air play on music video channels, ‘From Here to Infirmary’ was more than just a “single-heavy” album, instead it was a consistent record that subtly kept to the bands dark punk rock origins, but at the same time had a more accessible approach. The end result was a record that had tons of longevity and strengthened the bands influence within the punk community. (SR)
Saves The Day – Stay What You Are
Whilst their second album, ‘Through Being Cool’ is often cited as being an influential pop punk record, 2001’s ‘Stay What You Are’ had a larger impact within the emo genre as its mix of melachonic lyrics, Weezer-like angst and warming melodies. Songs like ‘Freakish’ and ‘At Your Funeral’ thrived on Chris Conley’s sensitive, emotive words. Whilst other tracks like ’Nightingale’ and ‘Firefly’ border on pop-rock due to the bands accessible hooks.
I’ll admit the bands efforts since haven’t quite matched the standard of ’Stay What You Are’ which is perhaps explains why it’s still fondly thought of. (SR)
Hot Rod Circuit – Sorry About Tomorrow
Although Hot Rod Circuit may not have had the same impact as other Vagrant bands from that era, their 2002 effort, ‘Sorry About Tomorrow’ holds up a superb emo/pop punk record as songs like ‘At Nature’s Mercy’, ‘Radiation Suit’ and ‘Safely’ thrived on HRC’s pop sensibilities.Their style felt right at home on Vagrant alongside Saves The Day, The Get Up Kids, No Motiv and Hey Mercedes; solid songs with dynamic melodies. (SR)
The Get Up Kids – Something To Write Home About
Whilst not Vagrant Record’s first release, The Get Up Kids’ ‘Something to Write Home About’ is the record that set the label on its way to perpetuity. Funded by loans and remortgages this emo-behemoth brought both the band and the label to the masses and created a stir in the scene that would last for years. Not long back I wrote a Fives piece on this album and I’m wary of repeating myself too drastically. The only reason it’s ended up here so shortly after it did in the emo list is that of all the records produced by Vagrant’s considerable roster over the last 15 years, this is the only legitimate necessity. It also represents an early stage in Vagrant’s long tradition of signing bands with massive major label interest and expanding their careers from an indie grounding.
Each track on the record is first rate, finding the best or most important song is an impossible task. ‘Holiday’ launches the album into the musical stratosphere and forty-five minutes later ‘I’ll Catch You’ brings it back down to earth with heartbreaking ease. There are so many incredible bursts of brilliance on this album, the desperate chorus of ‘Ten Minutes’ or the beautiful melodies and lyrics of ‘The Company Dime’ make ‘Something to Write Home About’ untouchable. Still being discovered by new fans almost 13 years after it’s release The Get Up Kids’ seminal album is a link not only to the band and the genre but to the label that played an enormous part in the strengthening and continuation of such emotional music the world over. (TK)
The Bled – Found In The Flood
Another band that shirked the major label approaches that followed their début album in favour of a move to Vagrant was The Bled. Fresh from their magnificent début album ‘Pass The Flask’, The Bled were hunted by a number of labels but, given that they were themselves already fans of Vagrant they chose the now burgeoning indie label instead. Like so many bands that erupted with their first release and had an excited and dedicated fan base clawing at their new label’s doors for the follow up, Vagrant took something of a gamble with The Bled. When the band’s sophomore album, ‘Found In The Flood’, dropped in August 2005 it was clear that this gamble had paid of.
Opening track ‘Hotel Coral Essex’ makes this absolutely clear. This track is, an utter beast – heavy, desperate, discordant and yet wonderfully melodic. James Munoz’ vocals are stunning, and atop the heavy, dirty instrumentation by the end of this very first track it’s obvious that The Bled had arrived at something special. That said, ‘Hotel Coral Essex’ gets it going, turns up the heat, and vindicates Vagrant’s signing. ‘Hotel Coral Essex’ is still not the album’s only standout track, there are no standout tracks, because ‘Found in the Flood’ maintains this intensity for a further nine songs.
‘With an Urgency’ and ‘I Don’t Keep with Liars Anymore’ are the last charges of an unrelenting assault. The former is storming, much like ‘Hotel Coral Essex’ it beings slow, Munoz’ impeccable voice arriving with a fantastic riff, and walking the listener through the verses before a driving chorus tears everything apart with a power rarely matched by the band’s contemporaries. ‘I Don’t Keep With Liars Anymore’ breaks out of an intro formed of slow chugged guitar and drums first into bursts of beautiful, heavy potency and then into a final slice of totally raw, emotionally fraught hardcore. ‘Found in the Flood’s concluding breakdown proves the point, apiece of music both heavy and somehow soaring, that builds whilst sounding continuously colossal, and features beautiful, dirty riffs that finally drop away into the albums harmonic outro. (TK)
Words by Sean Reid (SR) and Tom Knott (TK).