Here are some thoughts on,
A few exciting records,
And one not so much.
Here are some thoughts on,
Here are some thoughts on,
A few exciting records,
And one not so much.
Punks are notoriously “anti-“, especially when it comes to holidays centered around what many perceive as greedy, narcissistic capitalism. Some, on the other hand, just like to make traditional holiday hits a bit heavier. So in the spirit of giving, here’s a playlist of ten tracks to make your Xmas a bit less merry and a bit more merciless.
The point of emo is that it rubs you slightly the wrong way. The point of pop punk is to have a good time. Combine the two seemingly antithetical genres and you’ve got Short Stories, a San Diego band who are as emotionally grating as they are uplifting. It’s an odd mixture that at first can sound like water and vinegar but ends up working out like PB&J. Vocals that tend to sound more like angsty, off-tone confessional poetry a-la-Taking Back Sunday and major tonalities that meet up with rapid percussive sounds like that of Blink-182 make Short Stories’ Only Time Will Tell a must listen. It’s 2003 nostalgia with a 2015 twist. The so-called “Emo Revival” is here.
Top Tracks: “A Long Time Coming”; “Fortune Teller”
What do you think of when you hear the word “scene”? If you’re just the average Joe, you probably are thinking of the setting and actions of a play, a moment in your favorite movie, something built up and dramatized, or just something concrete to look at and remember. It can even reflect a culture or lifestyle as one major umbrella topic.
What a pretty scene here at the beach. That’s my favorite scene in Almost Famous. That neighborhood has such a cool skate scene. It’s all good and dandy; that is, unless you are talking about the “scene” of the substream music world. Then it becomes a dreaded word.
I am talking about the -core bands, the non-mainstream pop punk movements, and offshoots of metal that help make up Warped Tour lineups, Hot Topic trends, and give magazines like us, Alt Press, and Rocksound something to write about. While the varying sounds and genres of all of these bands may not overlap, their fan followings, press coverage, and tours usually do. What’s the most logical term to use to describe that? Scene, of course.
Growing up with the music that I liked, the shows that I went to, and the people that I hung out with, I always just referred to it as my “scene.” Of course, as I was referring to this the term, “scene kid” started to replace the term “emo” and became just as degrading or offensive. In fact, as I started to interview bands, if I referred to anything such as “this music scene” or “the scene your band stemmed from,” they’d typically try to correct me and say they didn’t want to call it a scene, however, they never really offered another term for it to go by.
The problem with this realm of the music world is that it’s not fully hardcore, it’s not fully punk, it’s not fully metal, it’s not fully pop. It’s a strange mixture of sounds with a varying range. Why can State Champs, Blood On The Dance Floor, Vanna, Terror, and Attack Attack! all be offered the same opportunities from Kevin Lyman if they have (for the most part) opposing sounds? Well, because many of their values and audiences overlap. The fact that many of these “diehard” or overbearing children of the MySpace age (myself included) became labeled as scene kids for how they looked, acted, and what they listened to is not a product of the music, it’s a product of the time. Sure, generic stereotypes came out of wearing intense side bangs that covered your entire face, crazy dyed hair, skinny ties (usually as anything but a tie), highlighter colored vans, and rubber band bracelets a mile long up your arms, but we loved and rocked that look. And who were the people who hated on the scene kids? The metal heads and the hardcore kids? Basically the kids so involved with the offshoots of this substream world that they knew what to look for to hate on scene kids. Please allow me to also wear immense amounts of black and a Metallica shirt from their thrash age that I lifted from my dad, or immense amounts of flannel shirts in varying colors with my square rimmed glasses and a Texas in July beanie. Trust me, I can willingly and gladly rock all of the fashions and support all of the styles of music associated with metal and hardcore, too.
When we talk about scene, the negatives trend around a previous fashion, style, and look characterizing a generation for the most part that has now grown up. But why is that term still so negative? “Emo” was hated for years. My Chemical Romance, the band who reportedly “Wouldn’t front the scene if you paid me,” denounced being emo, and guess what? They went down in history for 1. fronting the scene and 2. being one of the most influential “emo” rock bands to break the mainstream (and still didn’t sell out to do it, I might add). Now look at the music headlines. Everyone is talking about the “emo revival” that’s upon us. It’s being lauded for what it was and the upcoming bands that influenced it. Emo had been a stereotype associated with a style, sound, and negative actions of self harm. That’s why people hated it, because they all believed that kids who listened to it were mopey and in need of psychological help. That’s gross, and widely untrue. Associating a sound with one particular mental state is an invalid overgeneralization. A sound that helps inspire someone in need is what music is all about however, and emo was the poster child of that movement. A band doesn’t literally save someone’s life, but the connection and inspiration one gets from listening to music that relates to them does.
Eventually emo would open the doors for the term “scene” since it is, first and foremost, just a noun referring to a collective state or following of something. That’s it, a noun. It’s not all-inclusive or exclusive and doesn’t mean you can’t break out of it. Look at Of Mice & Men or A Day To Remember or even Blink-182. They started somewhere, with a certain scene, and branched out, but are still loved by the fans that first helped jumpstart their careers. When turned into an adjective, however, for some reason “scene” is a dirty word because guitarist so-and-so and vocalist whatshisname don’t want to be crowned “the poster child of Hot Topic” or whatever their shallow qualms may be. Why? Hot Topic probably sells your band’s T-shirt, and you know damn well you probably want people to buy and wear your band’s name. That’s why people make music: to share it with other people.
So in defense of the scene kid, the emo, the hardcore kid and the metal head, all terms I’ve been labeled for how I dress, act, and what I listen to, I say fucking own your title. Those aren’t negatives because people say it with snark or try to avoid it. By not owning what and who you are you give power to those who want to put those phrases down. So in defense of the music SCENE that I am heavily involved in, largely in love with, and have been for the majority of my life, I refuse to not use that term when referring to this musical collective and lifestyle.
It’s difficult to always say “the musical substream of the bands that are widely accepted on Warped Tour and through offshoots of ’90s metal,’80s hardcore and pop punk.” That’s exhausting and takes forever to type. Let’s just call it what it is. It’s our music scene. It’s fun, diverse, ever-changing and something we should be proud to be associated with. We don’t have to be scene kids. We just have to love our scene and know that it’s okay to call it that.
THIS EDITORIAL WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED THROUGH TAYLOR MARKARIAN’S GRIMM ROCK REVIEW AND IS RE-PUBLISHED HERE VIA THE AUTHOR’S CONSENT.
“Rock ‘n’ roll” is a heavy phrase. It carries with it sex, drugs, death, youthful rebellion, dreams made and dreams broken, all culminating in a unique spirit that has all but become synonymous with America itself. Unfortunately, folks, it’s all over.
Gene Simmons told us the bad news on September 4th in an interview with Esquire— “Rock is finally dead.” So all of you up-and-coming’s out there can pack your bags, clip on a tie, and major in finance, because none of what you’re doing matters. The kids lined up around the block hours before the show can go home. Warped Tour? Mayhem Fest? Shut ‘em down. And all of those band t-shirts in your closet can be sewn into a nice dark quilt for grandma because there’s just no arguing with Gene.
Really, who are we to point out that Warped tour garnered $23.4 million last year and is the longest running musical festival in the country (Billboard Magazine)? Or that numerous acts such as My Chemical Romance, Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blink-182, The Foo Fighters, and The Used have become landmarks of rock and of American pop culture post-1983, the year Simmons demarcated as the last of true “musical anythings that are iconic, that seem to last beyond their time”? How can we dare to worship albums like Senses Fail’s Let It Enfold You or Taking Back Sunday’s Tell All Your Friends 10 years after their release? And what miscreant keeps plastering the words “sold out” on almost any venue hosting Asking Alexandria, Pierce the Veil, Lamb of God, or Avenged Sevenfold?
The answers to these snarky questions are multi-dimensional and interconnected. In all seriousness, Gene Simmons is partly right. That amorphous, umbrella term—“Rock”—is dead, in that its dozens of subgenres have made it relatively meaningless. No one can be just a rock band anymore, because it’s simply too broad. What are you? Metal? But what kind of metal? Thrash, Nu, Black, Death? Are you hardcore? Meaning, are you post-hardcore, hardcore punk? The lists and divisions go on and on.
Another reason Gene Simmons is right is the same reason that he is laughably, infuriatingly wrong. His definition is limited. He equates rock with acts like (what a shock) Kiss, The Beatles, The Stones, and U2. For him, rock is dead because it is no longer main stage. The arena shows are reserved for Justin Bieber. Radio time is given to endless repeats of the latest Katy Perry club mix.
Well—and let me be as professional and eloquent as possible here—DUH! It’s 2014, not 1980. (And it’s not 2008 either, by the way. The “file-sharing” argument is not news. So if Gene Simmons was going to announce the vicious murder of music, meaning all music, it should have been during the golden age of Limewire, not in 2014 during an LP revival.) The technology has changed, the entertainment market has expanded, and the media is over-saturated. Of course when we develop new electronic gadgets every five minutes the mainstream sounds of our generation are going to be pop, hip-hop, and EDM-centric. The enormous technological shift finds its echo in a shifting cultural paradigm, so it makes sense that the gritty, raw texture of Beartooth is going to be passed over for smooth, shiny, easily-digestible Deadmau5 nine times out of 10.
But does that make all rock music irrelevant and the victim of senseless slaughter? Of course not. To stand by such an assertion would be flagrant and ludicrous reductionism. All genres have their time in the spotlight, and if we’re being true to the meaning of rock, the “underground” is exactly where it should be right now anyway.
“The meaning of rock.” What’s that? It’s a question that can engender thousands of answers, but if we’re speaking historically, rock is fundamentally counterculture. Rock always needs something to resist. Whether it be The Sex Pistols or Bob Dylan, rockers of all branches have been “anti—” and controversial for decades. They even oppose each other.
On the other hand, rock is and has been one of the most uniting forces the world has ever known. It provides much needed respite for the world-weary, the angst-ridden, the broken-hearted. Kids who might otherwise have wanted out of this life decided to stick around because of that one chorus in that one A Day To Remember song.
So we pick up our guitars. We set up our kits. We plug in our amps and attempt to dial them past 10 even if we won’t ever book Madison Square Garden, because house parties and club venues and even empty basements are just as good. We don’t scream the lyrics for the money. To paraphrase a Dangerkids song, we do it because “there is something in us that won’t leave us alone.”
So, in the spirit of all that is rock ‘n’ roll: Fuck you. Rock is alive and well.