Have you ever watched a child play with a toy? He’ll usually love the living hell out of it right up until the moment that he doesn’t. When he’s tired of trying to jam it up his nose or smash it through your flatscreen TV, he'll drop it on the floor and forget about it forever. Forever...or until someone else starts to play with it, at which point, IT IS HIS FAVORITE THING IN THE WORLD AND HE WANTS IT BACK NOW NOW NOW NOW. Music critics are a lot like children and right now their toy is emo.
At some point recently, someone must’ve picked up the emo toy and music writers everywhere decided they also wanted to play because seemingly out of nowhere, a buttload of articles about emo revival started popping up on the more popular music sites: “Twenty Bands You Need To Know In The Emo Revival Movement,” “Emo Revival Is Real And So Is Your Pain,” “Break Out The Razor Blades And Start Cuttin’ Again, You Fucking Nerds, Emo Is Back!” It’s all bullshit of course because emo never went away in the first place. Much like the toy on the floor, it’s been sitting there until someone decided it needed to be picked up again.
Sure, emo absolutely saw a golden era in the mid-to-late ‘90s when bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, Mineral, and Texas Is The Reason were on fire. Or as “on fire” as a band can be while still singing about girls breaking up with them. But just because most of the music press moved on to other things like publicly fellating Jack White for a decade or pretending folk rock isn’t the most embarrassing white people music on the planet, doesn’t mean emo ever died off. New bands have come and gone, old bands have reunited and broken up again, and some staples have just stayed the course.
Look at folks at Tim Kasher of Cursive/The Good Life or Mike Kinsella of Owen or Jonah Mantraga of onelinedrawing. All stuck it out. All have more or less been putting out the same sound for a decade. Same goes for emo grampas like The Appleseed Cast and Jimmy Eat World. Hell, even emo-millionaire and mini-Hugh Jackman look-alike Chris Carrrabba is still cuddling close to blankets and sheets with Dashboard Confessional.
Or look at someone like Evan Weiss. Literally look at him, he is a beautiful man. Evan is enjoying the perks of this “emo revival” coverage. His Into It. Over It. project has received positive mentions lately in emo revival round-ups in The Village Voice, Stereogum, and Pitchfork. A great bump for this burgeoning new artist. Except wait. Evan has been pushing his wimpy emo jams on people for the last 14 FUCKING YEARS. It’s just that no one cared to write about it until now.
For Evan, the “emo revival” trend is bittersweet. “I think it’s awesome that major music publications or cool indie rock publications are posting about these bands,” he told me. “But I feel to call it an ‘emo revival’ is kind of lame. They’re all like, ‘Yo, check out these really cool bands...that you should feel guilty for listening to!’ Are you kidding me? It’s almost like this weird backhanded compliment.” (It should be noted that when I talked to Evan for this, he was wearing LL Cool J’s hoodie from the “Mama Said Knock You Out” video and I had to sit through him repeatedly shouting, “Don’t call it a comeback! I been here for years!“)
Evan Weiss, playing sitting on a stool like a real goddamn emo musician.
Evan takes it all in stride though because he’s been around long enough to know where this whole revival train is headed. “The weird’s gonna get weirder and the poppy and commercial stuff is just gonna completely destroy it and it’s gonna collapse on top of itself all over again. It’s a cycle... Every genre has a way of being co-opted.”
Right there, Evan, in his infinite emo wisdom just touched upon the exact source of the problem: co-opting. Emo’s current situation can all be traced back to the early 2000’s when whatever dumb, lazy music journalist was the first person to start calling MTV-friendly bands like My Chemical Romance, The Used, and Fall Out Boy “emo.” For the record: they are not. No, let me write that again in all caps. THEY ARE NOT. God, that felt good. Really, someone should have coined a new genre for those bands years ago. (Is it too late to suggest “Your Little Sister’s Favorite Band-Core” or “Hot Topic Rock”?) Because by lumping those bands in with emo by default, you are pissing into the emo river and poisoning the genre, giving it the awful stigma that emo is nothing more than a bunch of eyeliner-wearing goth teens with stupid swoopy haircuts and black nail polish. (In actuality, real emo kids are preppy nerds who wear black-framed glasses and have VERY SERIOUS opinions about Jets to Brazil.)
Not emo. Not now. Not ever.
The irony in all of this is that a large reason emo “died down” in the first place—aside from most of its followers finally losing their virginities and getting lives—is because it was forced to go underground when every music outlet stupidly tried to stick emo with My Chemical Romance and Paramore. And now, in 2013, those same music outlets are trying to tell us what new emo bands we should check out. It sounds a lot like when Dick Cheney goes on Fox News and advises Obama on how to handle the Iraq war. Thanks, guys, but we’d all rather eat a Hitler sandwich than take your shitty, hypocritical advice.
Eventually, this problem will solve itself. The “emo revival” articles will soon hit a critical mass. The straw that will break the camel’s back will be when some New York Times writer takes a break from penning the paper’s 500th “Have You Noticed There Are Hipsters Living In Brooklyn???” article to write a trend piece on emo. The Times' anti-Midas touch will kill the trend dead where it stands and everyone will lose interest in emo and move on to whatever dumb music subgenre is popular that week, like indie drone Celtic trip-hop or whatever. But for the moment, we’re all currently trapped in fake emo revival hell and to borrow a line from emo legends, The Promise Ring, nothing feels good.
Follow Dan on Twitter @danozzi