Stay Cool Dad

Emo by Simon Sharwood
February 20, 2006, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Dotmusic, I'm so old ..., Just listened to ..., Sounds like, Uncategorized

I met a 16 year old pseudo-relative* of mine yesterday and asked her what kind of music she is into.

“Emo,” she said.

I had no idea what Emo is but she explained it is “emotional punk” and named Green Day as a standard-bearer. The mere mention of Green Day and the word punk in the same month has always made me laugh, so I have since done some reading and downloaded some by a band called Evaline recommended at

The general idea seems to be that Emo is a post-punk genre that never made it mainstream. The label never died and now the content is goth-gloomy and the music is occasionally heavy, but also sufficiently quiet that the music can carry the miserable lyrics. In Evaline’s case this means that when they try to rock out, it is just laughable. Some other stuff I listened to has some metal-ish bits but the kids involved seem afraid to see what happens when you really start to treat distortion and feedback as your friends.

They are all “proper songs” too. There’s no experimentation with form I’ve encountered. This seems to be part of the Emo ethic.

All of which is harmless, but interesting for the co-option of the word punk.

Now maybe I’ve forgotten, but I thought punk was all about one emotion: rage. And true punks expressed their rage about everything, even though they knew it was ill-informed and often ill-expressed. They just expressed their rage anyway because … well … because they were punks.

And that’s why it was so offensive: a punk’s reaction to everything was to deny it with anger and rage, then force you to confront it aurally and in any other way.

Once they figured out this was an actually kind of interesting response: all previous attempts at making art had asked for a considered response. Punk became a kind of anti-art movement which, as Greil Marcus hypothesises in his extraordinary Lipstick Traces, is important because it is only anti-art that advances art overall.

Anyway … back to Emo.

I can’t see what the fuss is about, but I can see why kids care. Being able to label yourself in a taxonomy ignored and incomprehensible to anyone else is surely part of the teenage condition. As someone who was (and is, I suppose) proudly Sydney indie circa 1990 I understand the enjoyment that comes with affiliation to a tribe no-one else knows exists.

I suspect that by whenever it is my kids start to put themselves into one of these tribes I may not be able to connect so neatly to a progenitor like punk.

Maybe if I talk to more sixteen year olds** I will be able to make that connection.

*My way of describing anyone more remote than first cousin, as I have no idea how to describe anyone more obscurely related than that …

** And figure out a way to do it without getting arrested


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

As I understand the statutes, you may get divorced, but not arrested …

Comment by Pdaddy

no, he may get KILLED. but someone might get arrested (probly me)

Comment by elissa

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