[myPod is an attempt to edit down my CD collection as I import my music on to my brand new 160 GB iPod.]
I wish more emo bands sounded like Braid circa Frame & Canvas – catchy, fervent, emotional. Hell, I wish more of Braid’s songs sounded like Frame & Canvas. That record is such a perfect composition of the raw and the pop. The Age of Octeen and other earlier records can’t live up to it, which is why I’ve opted to hold on only to Frame and the group’s two singles collections. Braid wrote a ton of songs in their six years together, and lots of them ended up on seven-inches and compilations. Movie Music Volume One boasts some of their best material; Volume Two has amazing covers of classics by The Smiths, Billy Joel and Pixies. It’s great how the band can do such a serious, emo spin on “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” and then turn around and play an uber-party rendition of “This Charming Man,” complete with a kazoo and handclaps.
Verdict: Half and half.
While they began as a tribute to The Get Up Kids and Hot Rod Circuit, Brand New quickly morphed into something much more ethereal yet powerful. Not that there was anything wrong with their hero worship; Your Favorite Weapon was a catchy collection of zingers and hum-dingers. It gets a little repetitive in spots, but overall is a nice shot of poppy emo rock. Deja Entendu managed to be both better and worse than its predecessor. Musically, it’s much more accomplished and original. Lyrically, well… it’s a little rough in spots. Self-indulgent, even by emo’s standards. For a time, frontman Jesse Lacey was one of the best lyricists in ’00s emo, but he could also go on lengthy rants about himself. Entendu is good, but a couple of bum tracks keep it from being great.
The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me takes the style and renders it more raw, to great success. It’s a much more lumbering record, but man does it hit these stellar, wide open post-rock passages. “The Archers Bows Have Broken” is just about the most triumphant song they’ve ever written. I didn’t bother with Daisy – it’s nowhere near as compelling as Devil – but I still hold out hope for a good follow-up.
FUN FACT: I just realized that Safety in Numbers, who appeared on an early split with Brand New, was a HRC side project.
Essentially, The Breeders are for people who think Pixies didn’t have enough Kim songs. The side project is a little weirder than Pixies. Well, not weirder lyrically – Frank Black always had a knack for disturbingly sexual lyrics – but the song structures often defy traditional pop conventions. Not sure if the reunion albums are worth anything, but Pod and Last Splash are essential ’90s alternative listening. “Last Splash” is the best, although that cover of The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun” is a mighty fine too.
Bridge and Tunnel
While I still miss Latterman, the bands that splintered off from that punk band have been pretty great too. Bridge and Tunnel, featuring Latterman drummer Pat Schramm, is a little bit slower but still quite good. They’ve got more of a post-hardcore sound, reminiscent of Nakatomi Plaza and Small Brown Bike. Sometimes the lyrics get a little too self-righteous, but somebody’s gotta call the punx on their bullshit.
I got into Bright Eyes because my high school crush was obsessed with Fevers and Mirrors, which means I became obsessed with Fevers and Mirrors, especially “The Calendar Hung Itself…” due to its “Your boyfriend sucks, I’m awesome and/or emotionally unstable” element. I still like the record, but I see a lot of Conor Oberst’s bad tendencies building up. Now that I’m a little older, some of his lyrics come off as self-absorbed, melodramatic, or, worse, stupid. The record isn’t quite as heavy as I remember it being. I already sold Lifted, Or This Title is Long So Fuck It a while ago. Double albums that weren’t written by The Clash or The Cure tend to suck, and Lifted has about 35 minutes of amazing songs strangled by 40 minutes of other stuff. Oberst started to focus by, oddly enough, releasing a double album Use Your Illusion-style in 2004. I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning is a country/folk record that made waves for being totes political and anti-Bush. Looking back… like four of the songs are political. The rest are about love. And that’s fine, it’s still a great, balanced record, and it was heralded as such at the time.
Its companion, the experimental/electronic album Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, was derided at the time as being the lesser record, but it’s actually way better. The textures he got on that record are stunning, and the lyrics, so obsessed with time and death, really started to hit me hard after Mike died. “I didn’t believe in a God / Until we put him in the ground.” Right now it’s my favorite Bright Eyes record, even though it’s the least representative of his sound. Cassadaga, written post-rehab, seems unfocused and vague. Oberst starts to fizzle out here, although the Four Winds EP he released just prior to promote Cassadaga is amazing. The title track is a rousing country-rocker with a message, the B-sides rule, and my homeboy Ben Kweller plays on a track. Speaking of which, Bright Eyes’ EPs are generally great across the board.
Verdict: Keep some, sell some.
NEXT TIME: B is for... best of the rest.