Growing up, I never really listened to emo proper. Like a lot of my peers, I absorbed the negative reputation of bands like My Chemical Romance, and unfairly applied it to the entire genre without ever exposing myself to it. Thankfully, I recently gave the genre a shot, on a whim. What I discovered completely destroyed the perception I had of emo.
Not only did I find the music to be laden with creative elements from post-rock, math rock, hardcore punk, and more, but I discovered an album that almost instantly placed itself amid the best albums I have ever listened to. Fuck Your Emotional Bullshit is an astounding EP by the now defunct band Snowing, released in 2009. It clocks in at only 12 minutes and 51 seconds, with only five tracks (so you had better listen to it before reading this post). Inexplicably, Snowing has impressed me more than any of their contemporaries, or indeed, many of the bands in neighboring genres. I have heard a lot of other great stuff since I started listening to the genre, but today, I’ll focus on this EP, and what it does so well.
Track 1 – Sam Rudich. I’ve started to make a motif out of the fact that a certain degree of unpredictability is good for music. All the tracks on this album forgo a verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure in lieu of aggressive flurries of melody and emotion. The band doesn’t give you a lot of time to process what they’re doing before they change it up. This is where I feel they’ve executed something masterful — a lot of artists and a lot of music also employ the “busy, hard to follow” model in their sound, but Snowing has done so in a particularly mellifluous way. This is not mere noise. The source of the magic is all in the riff construction. None of the segments of the song ever seem to end on a proper concluding note, but they all flow into each other seamlessly, and with great precision. I’m normally not a fun of the sing-songy “word choice” in the middle of the song, but it works too well in this case for me to complain. Also, check out this live performance of the song. I’m surprised nobody gets killed whenever they wing their instruments around; I’ve never seen such a close-quarters show.
Track 2 – Important Things (Specter Magic). Expounding upon the “riff construction” point above, I really feel as though the band was firing on all cylinders, for this album. I say this, of course, without having read any interviews on the subject, but the chords, melodies, riffs, and beats blend very well. It seems like an album that could take people years to imagine. Even the instrument tone is perfectly chosen. That includes the singer’s pained – almost delicate – vocals. This track accentuates that more than the others. For a 3-minute track, it crescendos hard. To be honest, I actually credit the drummer almost as much as the vocalist for making this track as good as it is. The fact that I notice the drumming at all should be explanation enough that he did something right. Another interesting quality about the album thus far is that we’ve had two tracks go by without a single misfire. Not a single thing I think they should’ve done differently.
Track 3 – Pump Fake. I’m not much of a lyrics man, but even I’m going to notice if the vocalist starts yelling “I’d cut my arms off!” repeatedly. And though I’m not much of a lyrics man, I do find Snowing’s lyrics to be interesting. I suppose that writing lyrics for a song that doesn’t really have verses or a chorus would generally go this way, but all five tracks are essentially each a stream-of-consciousness paragraph. I recommend looking into them further, because they are surprisingly personal and well-put.
Track 4 – Kirk Cameron Crowe. This track takes a more instrumental angle than the previous three. It feels like a bit of a relaxant compared to what we’ve heard so far. Because this is one of the weaker tracks on the album, for me, I’m going to use this opportunity to talk about some of the aforementioned “other” great bands in the genre:
Two other bands that stood out to me during my foray into emo were Cap’n Jazz and a band who seriously goes by the name The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die. Cap’n Jazz have an amusing cover of Take On Me which, for some reason, reminds me of this scene from Oliver & Company (it’s probably the howling). My recommendation as a first song from TWIABP is Heartbeat in the Brain. It’s hard for me to describe the band with any word other than “solid.” They do what they do very well, and thus, this track is a pretty good measure of whether or not you’ll enjoy the band.
Track 5 – Methuselah Rookie Card. This track has a distinctly post-rock sound to it. It does have the “flurry” style of the earlier tracks, but the heavy guitar playing at the end keeps it relatively calm. The track ends abruptly, dare I say “of course.” I know that Snowing has other albums, but from what I have heard, they don’t capture the same emotion that this one does. I’m left debating whether this album ends too soon, or at just the right point. If nothing else, it lends itself to being listened to more than once.
Since beginning this post, I actually heard MCR on the radio. I can finally understand the perspective that “true emo fans” had years ago — that MCR is clearly not the same type of music. It’s interesting that even though MCR and similar bands admittedly play music above what I’d call the industrial average (compare Helena to a more typical rock song), they don’t come near the variety of any actual emo bands. I suppose that solidifies their position as “pop punk.” As for Snowing, I’m glad I ran into them. They’ll probably remain one of my favorite finds of 2013. And perhaps I will learn to be less hasty in dismissing entire genres based on a few bands.