Monday, March 13, 2017

Emo, daily songs, and James Dewees

Today starts James Dewees week. Each song of the day will come from his career, and the Thursday and Friday band reviews will be bands that were mentioned by him (The Superweaks and Andy Jackson, FYI).

When I have given a song week to an individual before, it was for solo artists with long and varied careers. (Specifically, it was David Bowie and Iggy Pop, and they were back to back because that felt right. I am going to have to work out something for Stevie Wonder, but I think I know what it will be.)

I could easily do a week or month of Reggie and the Full Effect songs that I love, but what interests me here is how many bands Dewees has fit into, which includes playing different instruments. I want to spend some time on that versatility.

I originally planned to do that in October, and then there was going to be a My Chemical Romance week ending on Frank Iero's birthday, but with the other bands who were on deck for daily songs and waiting for material for bands I wanted to review, it just didn't work out. Some of that happened in December, some of it is happening now, and some will probably still happen eventually.

I wasn't bothered, because I realized that James Dewees was born on March 13th, which would be on a Monday, and that would be a great lead-in to blogging about emo and finally starting to go through the emo songs. If only I were done.

I first finished Andy Greenwald's Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and Emo December 23rd, 2012. That was the year I got onto Twitter and into My Chemical Romance, at which point the word "emo" was being thrown around a lot. Reading the book was my attempt to understand that, though it didn't help much.

That was not completely Greenwald's fault. Part of what confused me were developments that happened after the book's publication, and there was no way he could have included it. Nonetheless, there are some real weaknesses to the book, and I will be writing about those tomorrow.

At the time I thought it was me - I just didn't know enough about the music. I decided I was going to go through all the bands mentioned in the book, and then I would get it. I blogged about starting to do that in July of 2013. I am still at it.

I admit my efforts have not always been consistent. As it is, I am in the middle of Chapter 10 and have about 110 bands left, plus I need to watch a documentary about the Long Island emo scene. (I am curious about this, because at least based on The MovieLife, Long Island seems a little angrier.)

One issue is that this involves a lot of repeats, and Greenwald throws in a lot of bands that are not emo, but relate in some tangential way. Maybe one of the bands featured really liked a band or reminded people of a band, or bands get mentioned because they were in the music mainstream at the time. Or maybe Jimmy Eat World's crew went to a Slayer concert.

I know that makes it take longer, but I'm going with it anyway, because it does fill things in. I was not listening to contemporary music during the main period, so I don't know this stuff. I realized I had never listened to Pantera before, now I have. I really enjoyed listening to Nelly. I am still not enjoying Eminem, but I am flinching less. None of them are emo.

Even with the emo music, opinions evolve. The first time I listened to The Starting Line, I wrote "Bedroom Talk is so emo", and I don't think I meant it as a compliment. Now I like it.

Anyway, I am going to write about emo this week, and after James Dewees week I will start taking the daily songs from what I have heard so far. If with four and a half chapters left (with the last two being mainly about LiveJournal) I still have 109 bands, then you can only imagine how much music happened in the first nine and a half chapters. I have listened to every one of Deep Elm's Emo Diaries and every Drive-Thru Sampler. I think I can get a good start. Will I have more to say when I have finished? Probably.

Just to tie everything together, one of the emo mysteries for me was the style transition from Richie Cunningham with thick glasses to black leather burial shrouds with eyeliner and dramatic bangs. I did find a Marie Claire history of guyliner that seems to show the key years as 2004 - 2006 (with Nothing Feels Good coming out in 2003). Regardless, I did once ask James Dewees about it, and he said it came from The Get Up Kids keeping makeup around to draw on fake mustaches.

I think it sounds like an oversimplification, but they did influence a lot of bands. Jim Suptic has apologized for that.

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