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Hear Their Pain

July 07, 2002|Dean Kuipers

More than any other punk subgenre or scene, emo is defined almost completely by the listener. It has also moved through at least three generations--an '80s scene led by Rites of Spring, Fugazi, Moss Icon, Heroin, et al; a '90s successor marked by Seattle grunge-oriented Sunny Day Real Estate; and now a millennial pop-punk incarnation.

These albums are generally regarded as landmarks:

1. Dashboard Confessional, "The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most" (Vagrant). One-man band Chris Carrabba changed the whole idea of emo with his gut-wrenching solo guitar screeds on the much-cited album "The Swiss Army Romance."

2. The Promise Ring, "Very Emergency" (Jade Tree). This group has changed direction on its new Epitaph album, "Wood/Water," but the chiming, tortured "Very Emergency" is a perfect example of emo-punk.

3. Saves the Day, "Stay What You Are" (Vagrant). This new album has been called a sellout by hard-core emomaniacs but isn't a huge shift from the band's aptly titled emo masterwork, "Through Being Cool."

4. Jimmy Eat World, "Jimmy Eat World" (DreamWorks). The difference between Jimmy Eat World and, say, Blink-182 has shrunk markedly on this new album, but new emo fans can't help but love the radio-friendly singles "Sweetness" and "The Middle."

5. The Get-Up Kids, "Something to Write Home About" (Vagrant). Like the Promise Ring, the Kids have changed their sound significantly since this 1999 album was hailed as God's gift to emo, leaving listeners a bit confused over their new (and better) "On a Wire."

6. At the Drive-In, "Relationship of Command" (Virgin). ATDI broke up after this 2000 album, spinning off two new bands, Sparta and the Mars Volta. This album and the "El Gran Orgo" EP were faves of the genre.

7. Juliana Theory, "Emotion Is Dead" (Tooth & Nail ). Brad Detar's seriously earnest lyrics made 1999's "Understand This Is a Dream" a guitar-punk classic, but he really hit his emo stride on new tunes such as "If I Told You This Was Killing Me, Would You Stop?"

8. Pedro the Lion, "Control" (Jade Tree). Seattle's Pedro the Lion (a.k.a. David Bazan) turns down a notch from his popular emo work "Winners Never Quit," with ruminations on extramarital sex and vanity.

9. Further Seems Forever, "The Moon Is Down" (Tooth & Nail). This is the former band of Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba, driving his lyrical fixations on the pain of heartbreak with the heavy emotional weight of a full rock band.

10. Various artists, "The Emo Diaries," Volumes 1-8 (Deep Elm). Besides featuring new emo stars such as Jimmy Eat World in earlier incarnations, this 1997-2002 series pounds away at exactly what is emotional about emo, with titles including "I Guess This Is Goodbye," "The Silence in My Heart" and "Me Against the World."

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