When word came down last year that my friend Trevor was co-authoring a book on emo, a fellow friend asked me how I felt about this. Even though the time it's taken me to write my book has been double the time it took for his book to be written and published, I have no sour grapes about it. The way I see it, the more different, legit views on something, the better. But I was concerned about how this "emo joke book" would go over on me. As regular readers know, I'm pretty uptight about how the mainstream has rewired everything remotely emo into a commodity. I'm also firmly aware I'm not in the book's target demographic. Still, I found Everybody Hurts: An Essential Guide to Emo Culture to be an enjoyable read.
If there's one genre that's overdue for satire, it's mall emo. Too many bands have taken themselves too seriously kicking out jams that will probably be best remembered like Eighties hair metal. All those flat-ironed haircuts, tight clothing, glossy-sounding records, eyeliner, and onstage "rock moves" will be the stuff so many teenagers will make light of with laughs in years to come. Hey, it's a part of growing up.
Trevor and fellow Alternative Press writer Leslie Simon have come up with something that is funny and heartfelt. The key here is that they are willing to make fun of themselves in the process. Analyzing the fashion, music, food, Internet, TV and film, this is not just about people who started listening to the Get Up Kids in 2002. More than anything, it's about the generation that was born between the mid- to late Eighties and early Nineties. These are the ones that come out to the Warped Tour, shop at Hot Topic, and read AP. Seeing where the authors fit into the mix as writers who cover this culture, it makes sense how well of an informed opinion they have. As a plus, Trevor and Leslie give not just an older perspective, but a perspective that isn't filled with bitterness and resentment.
Using drawings and lists to better illustrate their points, the book's an easy read. Everything is very concise, but not too vague or inside. I may never understand what's so great about Brand New, but in the case of why their second album is considered essential to this culture, it's "because, thanks to [lead singer/guitarist Jesse] Lacey, every frontman whose band has sold more than one hundred thousand records now automatically becomes an arrogant prick!" Very funny stuff because it's true.
Even with all the jokes and jabs at bands, fans and themselves, Everybody Hurts actually says something. Whether you like it or not, this is what many teenagers/college students have been a part of for the past few years. The book is meant to be humorous, but it doesn't feel one-dimensional or vacant. It simply says, "This is who we are, jokes and all." And that's refreshing when so many people haven't said that.