Here’s one that almost no one will care about, and I think that’s a shame. This is another post about another emo band, because I not so secretly think there are a bunch of great emo bands that people ignore. They chose to snub these groups because they either have misconceptions about emo, or because they specifically and pointedly do not have misconceptions about emo. I just used the word emo 4 times in 3 sentences. There are great songs at the end, so even if you skip the writing, just please download the songs. So much for a simple disclaimer.
I don’t get why Long Island sucks so much, musically, at least. I mean, my own home state of New Jersey has birthed and inspired The Boss, Bon Jovi, Dalek, Clem Snide, Lifetime, The Wrens, and Ted Leo among others. Long Island, another similarly sized suburban strech of the same metropolis has to its name…lessee…Billy Joel? Taking Back Sunday? De La Soul? I can’t explain why such a discrepancy exists, but maybe it’s because New Jersey is a diverse (if also almost entirely segregated) and cramped place, and so when your neighbor is making a ruckus with a backwards guitar loop at 3 in the morning, you’re just as likely to go over and add a bass part as you are to go over and tell him to shut off that racket.
But if there were a band that was emblematic of the long island “scene,” it’d be The Reunion Show. The band emerged from the ashes of Edna’s Goldfish, a ska band that was fairly popular in the brief, late 90’s time when that kind of thing was ok. Edna’s Goldfish broke up and reemerged as The Reunion Show, an unabashedly emo band, in the early 2000’s. They toured everywhere (with multiple stops in Jersey; I saw ‘em at least three times inadvertantly), released one amazing EP (more on that later), signed to victory records (probably my least favorite record label on the planet) released one album I have trouble recomending (which, if this tells you anything, had a music video directed by Andy Dick), and promptly broke up by the time the emo backlash had begun.
The reason I’m making you read a mini essay about these guys is twofold. First, because they encapsulate almost everything I love about emo. Second, because they, however briefly, offer something that approaches a PoMo critique of the genre, the scene, and the temporality of it all. Seriously, these are smart guys, who in the year 2002, released 6 unbelievably smart songs.
At the height of their popularity, the group released their first recording, a 6 track EP called The Motion. If there was any doubt about what kind of music comprises these 6 songs, one look at the cover art would settle the issue. The songs have so much sincerity and energy that, with a few years distance it is almost uncomfortable to appreciate them; it’s easier to mock them. Listening to “Too Much,” the EP’s first track, showcases everything that make the group undeniably talented. Skipping drums, punched guitar chords and sugary vocals, and something else, the band’s trump card: the moog. The moog synthesizer is something so synthetic, anti-climactic, and genuinely nerdy that it seems to have no place in pop music, and yet there it is, right up front in “Too Much,” proudly humming out its high pitched melody. It’s a song for summer, so give it a few weeks, find someone who has a convertible, and drive somewhere important at unconscionable speeds. That’s when it’ll make sense, if not before then.
The best, most brilliant song the band wrote is the EP’s second track, “New Rock Revolution.” The song begins, as most songs should, with a scream, a wail, a rollercoaster drop, and then the lyrics “Welcome to revolution, new rock revolution!” And then the moog comes in, and you wonder “Are these guys serious? The revolution is a gimmicky keyboard?” and then in the first verse, lines like “let’s throw a wrench into the system” certainly don’t help things. But THEN that prechorus hits and things start to come together. “you tought us how to dream/you tought us how to love/you tought us how to cry…” (“ok,” you’re probably thinking, “so what?” but THEN…) “…but that don’t mean a thing!”
Suddenly you realize it; the song is destroying itself, it is ripping apart its own lyrics and every good intention it has. The chorus is two lines repeated over and over “It’s all been done before!/welcome to the revolution, the new rock revolution.” The band is sitting you down and telling you that they know they’re nothing special. A few kids will write their lyrics on notebooks. A few more (actually, at one of their bigger shows the first ever Asbury Skate and Surf Fest, it was a few hundred) would shout their songs in a circle pit. A few more will mature and write long, rambling essays about their songs on MP3blogs, but mostly the band realizes they’re just part of a cycle of growing up. It was Nirvana before them, and Echo and the Bunnymen before that. The song, ultimately, is about the connections we have with music, the way we shout at songs and they shout back, the way sometimes words help only when they’re sung. It’s an ode to growing up connected to a band, even with the acknowledgment that such connection will probably not last.
And so, in a brilliant bit of tragicomedy, the song ends with just about the saddest bridge it could. The Reunion Show being a male fronted emo band, a girl is going to factor in somewhere. But when she does in New Rock Revolution, she is more of a concept than a girl, and unlike most emo “girl-done-me-wrong-songs” (to use a phrase coined by John K Samson), she has a voice here:
there’s this girl, she lives in her made world
she says it’s all been done, she says it’s all been done
I just might, lay with her for a while
she says it’s all been done, she says it’s all been done,
(and then the killer, the thesis, conclusion and sucker punch all in one line
she says it’s all been done for days and years to come.
A guitar solo seals the deal. The song is epic because it so willingly destroys itself. In a not that shocking development, after the band broke up, three of its members reemerged as a Killers-esque dance rock band called Action! Action!, who aren’t my thing, but i think that’s beside the point: even if it’s all been done, it’s nice to see they’re saying it all again.