What actually IS emo?
Has there ever been a rock genre attached to a more bewildering diversity of approaches? From straight-edge 80s “emotional” hardcore (Rites of Spring, Embrace), to strummy 90s Xtian folk (Pedro The Lion), to bombastic Green Day-do-Bohemian Rhapsody 00s rock operas (My Chemical Romance) to uh Avril Lavigne – these people can’t even coordinate their haircuts let alone their sociopolitical and musical agendas!
As something of an emo agnostic, it was therefore illuminating to trawl ILX’s recent 100 Best Emo Albums poll, which kicked off with At The Drive-In and concluded with these guys…
Sunny Day Real Estate became most famous for providing the rhythm section in the early ‘Nirvana 2.0’ incarnation of Foo Fighters, after it became apparent that Krist Novoselic felt uneasy about being a full-time member, and hit the road performing an album of songs that Dave Grohl had recorded (playing every instrument on) during his time in his former grunge band.
Sunny Day Real Estate had fallen apart during sessions for their untitled second album. Their first album, Diary, topped the ILX poll. It’s a cryptic, feel-filled, hardcore-influenced piece of work from a 19-year-old singer-songwriter and is therefore probably the closest thing to a ‘true’ definition of emo as you can get.
The lyrics are tongue-tied, abstract, verging on gibberish – but delivered in that uber-sincere, heartfelt, THIS MEANS EVERYTHING kind of way that American rock bands are so good at it.
In 1994, before Tumblr, that meant a lot.
(In 1994, the guy who invented Tumblr was 7 years old.)
Given that so much of the music we deal in on this blog often has a tongue planted in cheek, is formulated to engage with high – sometimes academic – concepts, can sometimes be accused of being ‘cold’, I guess it’s kind of a breath of fresh Coke to hear something once in a while that’s almost embarrassingly earnest. And, fuck it, I like that sound. Big crashing chords like rain; hearts dancing with anguish.
Buy Sub Pop’s cassette reissue of the 1994 album Diary at Banquet Records
Art: Untitled by Brandon C. Long