the 11 greatest moments in emo

As we launch our new series documenting the history of British style tribes, take a trip down Emo’s highpoints. There have been highs, there have been lows, and there has been Jordan Catalano. We countdown the eleven times Emo Emo’d even itself…

by Dan Martin
13 July 2015, 10:50am

In the beginning there was Sunny Day Real Estate
The true test of being Emo is akin to the medieval practise of witch-drowning, wherein if an artist claims not to be Emo (despite how many girls with hair clips and Sesame Street backpacks turn up to their shows), it is a sign that you most definitely are. Similarly, much as Emo as a genre was birthed as a strain of the DC Punk scene of the mid-eighties, the wussier strain we know today can perhaps be traced back to somewhere around the making of Seattle's Sunny Day Real Estate's Diary in 1994. Taking those characteristics of DC but doing it ever so politely, the feelings and emotions of a generation of morose young men had a new soundtrack. One of them's in the Foo Fighters now.

Neutral Milk Hotel are Emo really
Included mainly to piss off serious indie types who would come out in hives to have their holy grail of taste, 1998's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea being tarnished with something as crass as the E word. Seriously, listen to their amazing Oh Comely and try telling me that isn't Emo.

Jimmy Eat World Bleed American and Break Through
The precise moment when Emo stopped being a support group with a fringe and became a multi-million dollar business concern came in 2001, when a generation's fists pumped to the third album from Arizona's Jimmy Eat World, Bleed American. The album's singles The Middle and Salt Sweat Sugar ate college radio, and the record became so high-profile, the band reissued it simply as Jimmy Eat World after the 9/11 attacks out of concern that some people might think they meant the title Bleed, American as an instruction.

Deja Entendu by Brand New
Because Emo is nothing without a healthy bit of self-involvement, I'm going to think nothing of shamelessly including one my favourite records ever of any genre. It marks the Long Island combo's maturity from shorts-and-skateboard types into an epic inventive and oh-so-emotional group of grown-ups who referenced the movie Amelie and the 1951 shipwreck of the FV Pelican at Montauk Point.

It also contains probably the only song from a musician about the agony of being on tour that doesn't suck completely: "I won't see home this spring. Oh, I would kill to be inland but I am paid to make girls panic while I sing."

Panic At The Disco's second album career hari kiri
So you've sold two million records and earned the adoration of a generation as poster boys for a genre that is currently eating the world. So what do you do? How about… swallow a load of old Kinks and Zombies records and follow your debut up with a sixties psych-rock record that stands little or no chance of connecting with your young audience. Brilliant.

Jared Leto has feelings
Two reasons. Because he was an instrumental factor in Emo's very own sacred tract, the wildly seminal My So-Called Life, and such is his eternal association with the genre because of that show, his ludicrous band 30 Seconds To Mars have been allowed to become its international poster boys and biggest stars, despite them actually sounding like a garish attempt at a watered-down U2. Go figure.

The fitty that was Dashboard Confessional
Accept your shallowness, that's part of the contradictory message of the truly Emo. And so "fit", basically. So mid-noughties era, mid-table, workmanlike Emo rockstar Dashboard Confessional, aka Chris Carraba, gets a mention for no other reason than he's fit. We can barely remember any of his songs, but ain't he dreamy?

Scotland emotes
Sure, northern Britain might not have much to do with Emo in the baggy-shorted, talk-about-my-issues sort of a way. But the country's current rock kingpins Biffy Clyro, for example straddle the exact position of channelling both US bands with issues and down tuned chords, and the tradition of Scottish folk. See also, Sucioperro, Aereogramme - anyone with an inscrutable name, basically.

The War On Emo
The War On Emo was a loose collection of events in 2006 hastily thrown together to make a good headline by, well by me actually. The uprising of hit genre properties My Chemical Romance and Panic! At The Disco was met with hostility at the Reading Festival, with both bands subjecting to revenge bottlings. Meanwhile in the Daily Mail, Sarah Sands' historic, hilarious warning to parents of the sinister suicide cult that was sweeping the nation's youth whipped up controversies further. It is truly a thing of wonder.

There followed much emoting on MySpace, a few demonstrations and a furious letter-writing campaign by kids who pointed out that the music was actually saving them from depression and self-harm. And we got an NME cover out of it, before everyone moved on with their lives.

Paramore go pop!
Nobody took Tennessee's factory-farmed Christian tweens Paramore very seriously, apart from the hundreds and thousands of hormonal xxxx who hung off their every key change after they were able to ride the wave soundtracking the first Twilight movie. Shit got ugly and political, half the band left, and in response, Hayley Williams and her boys decided to screw it, wrote the pop classic Still Into You and became absolutely bloody brilliant.

Laura Jane Grace comes out
Florida's Against Me! were a perfectly servicable, not especially remarkable group of politico punks of the macho, piss-and-vinegar variety. That was until frontman Thomas Gabel transitioned into Laura Grace into 2012, becoming, almost certainly, the first out trans woman in a commercially successful rock band, at a time when the taboos were only just breaking. The band went to even more strength, making Grace's transition front and centre on 2014 album Transgender Dysphoria Blues.


Text Dan Martin