On The Record: Emo Overload
Recently, Maureen Callahan wrote a piece for the New York Post about Crush Management, the NYC cadre that shepherds the careers of Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, the Academy Is … and Armor for Sleep (or, as Callahan puts it, “basically any band that a 13-year-old girl with a blog and a Hot Topic habit obsesses over”).
Aside from providing readers with some genuinely bananas quotes from songwriter/ rock-and-roll vampire Butch Walker about credibility (especially considering this is on his résumé), the article is excellent primarily because it floats the hypothesis that the artists Crush represents are basically the modern-day equivalent of Warrant or White Lion: good-looking, commercially successful bands that no self-respecting music fan would be caught dead listening to. Hair-metal acts for the MySpace generation.
And if that’s true (and it probably is), then that raises the question: Are we currently living in the Trixter/Winger era of the genre? Has emo-punk — a term that, at this point, is so indefinable that it somehow encompasses My Chemical Romance, Panic and Cute Is What We Aim For, three bands that are neither particularly “emotional” nor particularly “punk,” unless you count ripping off Queen, dressing up like a marionette or being terrible as such — become so same-y, so formulaic and so watered down that it now borders on self-parody? Is 2007 really just 1989 but, you know, worse?
Let’s compare: Both hair-metal and emo-punk acts exist almost primarily on the aesthetic plane — the obvious connection here is the hair — and count among their chief reasons for success the physical attributes of one bandmember (be it Kip Winger’s toothy grin or Pete Wentz’s, um, pouty lips). As a result, both appeal primarily — nay, almost exclusively — to young girls, those who, as Callahan puts it, are “not yet ready for real rebellion.” Both are critically derided, save one act that is begrudgingly admired by critics (Extreme, MCR). And while both do, in fact, rock, no dyed-in-denim rock fan would ever admit to liking them (i.e. a Metallica fan would’ve never said, “Skid Row is kind of awesome,” inasmuch as no Linkin Park fan would admit that “Boys Like Girls totally brought it last night”).
And, of course, there’s the songs, which tend to tackle serious issues in seriously bantam-weight ways (Skid Row’s “18 and Life,” Taking Back Sunday’s “A Decade Under the Influence”); the overtly crass accessibility (hair metal, by definition and execution, was tailor-made for radio, whereas emo-punk is neatly customized for MySpace players); and, uh, the fact that both genres died (or are dying) under the sheer weight of “bands” operating underneath their respective umbrellas.
The comparison brings up several rather, uh, troubling questions: Are MCR and FOB this generation’s Guns N’ Roses and Metallica — i.e. rock acts that are actually pretty awesome yet won’t be truly recognized for their brilliance until all other pretenders to the throne die off? Who will be the 2007 version of Firehouse? (Coheed and Cambria?) And will we all, in 20 years’ time, clamor for a Taking Back Sunday reunion tour?
And — perhaps more importantly — when emo-punk finally does die off, what will take its place? We all know that hair metal begat Nirvana, primarily because Kurt Cobain was the very antithesis of hair metal’s Pablum and posturing (but also because Nirvana were a great band). So what will succeed emo? If history is correct, it’ll be a band as far removed as possible from Fall Out Boy, one that plays totally insincere, totally ripping rock, and one fronted by a totally un-hirsute, totally ugly dude.
Which totally describes the Bronx, who are, coincidentally, also managed by Crush. There is no escape.
B-Sides: Other Stories I’m Following This Week
No Doubt write songs without Gwen; Gwen totally reminded she used to be in a band. (See “New No Doubt Songs Ready To Roll — Once Stefani Is.” )
I think the RATM clock countdown could’ve ended more anticlimactically. Actually, wait … no I don’t. (See “Rage Against The Machine Clock Counting Down To Wisconsin Concert.” )
Also on “Transformers” fans’ wish lists: Bumblebee to be played by “totally hot chick,” move out of parents’ basement. (See ” ’Transformers’ Fans Wanted Peter Cullen — Not Clooney — To Voice Optimus Prime.” )
Cleaning Out My Inbox (Or “Interactivity, While A Touchstone Of So-Called ’New Media,’ Is Actually Overrated And Kind Of A Waste Of Time”)
Last week’s edition of BTTS (see “White Stripes Give Radio Station A Case Of The Stupids, In Bigger Than The Sound“ ) caused a mini-maelstrom on radio stations across the country, which resulted in my inbox being overstuffed with e-mails from super-angry listeners and irate rock jocks (meaning a 150 percent increase in letters from dudes named “LAZLO,” “CHAOS MOTOR” and “DASH”). Some — read: most — were just exercises in profanity, but a few actually included a coherent sentence or three, so I’m including them here.
“There is a much, much, much bigger issue here. Every album this year has leaked. Every single album. Modest Mouse, 5 weeks before. Chevelle, a month. Manson leaked a month ago. Queens leaked 3 weeks ago. Lots and lots and lots of people have access to this music. If the record company still wants to use radio as a tool to expose new music, it sounds completely insincere and a lot of times like an outright lie to have World Premiers and debuts of songs and albums that are not new. Even if the label were to come to us and ask us to host an exclusive stream of the album on our website and we could point to that rather than playing it, that would be great too. They don’t though. They are no longer able to control the time of the release of these albums. We can sit here and debate whether that’s good, bad or indifferent, but regardless, it happens and we’ve got to find a way to deal with it. To kick and scream and stomp and wonder where the good old days of album artwork and getting excited for new music Tuesday went is a waste of time. That’s what we’re doing.”
-Spike, music director, Q101, Chicago
“Mr. Montgomery, as a DJ at my school’s student radio station, I can tell you that we are encouraged to play any leaked material we have obtained from an outside source, and we do this because we know our rights as a station, and because it’s what listeners want to hear. Was this stupid of Q101 to do, knowing what a nutjob Jack White can be? Probably. But does that mean they shouldn’t have done it to avoid the wrath of Mr. White? No, not really. I’m no expert in media law, but I hope this clarifies a few things. Thanks.”
-Garrett Lawton, WIUX, Bloomington, Indiana
“Wait … hang on … someone at MTV actually has an opinion that is somewhat relevant, and is allowed to voice it, in print no less, and borders on amusing? WTF? I guess I should tune in again, maybe you guys aren’t just hanging out with the lead singer from Filter and showing 4th rate quasi-reality half-hour bullsh– anymore.”
-Ted Taylor, somewhere in the wilds of the Internet
“I just read your article about the radio station playing a leaked copy of the White Stripes’ new album. While I agree with you that it wasn’t the most intelligent thing for them to do, do you actually believe that it was because of them that it was later found on P2P networks? If anything, it would have just created more awareness that it was out there to be had — but on the internet, you don’t need much to get the word out. … While I agree it was wrong, I don’t see the harm. If anything, it generates interest in the album. The people who are going to download it illegally are still going to no matter where they hear it first. Oh, and what the hell is wrong with the Squirrel Nut Zippers?”
-Doug Turley, Edwardsville, IL
“Hola a todos, es un agrado para mi comunicarme con ustedes y enviarles una información de mucho valor para los interesados en adquirir Bienes Raíces únicos de nuestro hermoso país que es Chile …A continuación verán algunas fotos de una Hacienda que posee mas de 7000 (Siete Mil) Hectáreas de terreno, cuyos paisajes absolutamente envidiables hacen de éste, un paraíso de lugar, tanto comercial como personal para quienes gustan de la naturaleza, el agua, la nieve, la vegetación, las riquezas mineras y todo tipo de apasionados deportes extremos. En su interior hay una extensión plana, llamada planicie de la Luna, la que puede ser usada como pista de aterrizaje en tiempos y condiciones aptas para el vuelo. El valor comercial de esta Hacienda supera los $1.400.000.000.”
-Francisco Javier Salgado Contreras, Antuco, Chile
Questions? Concerns? Drop me a line at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.