Monday, February 04, 2013

Our First Taste of Escape

A few days ago, while digging through Count Your Lucky Stars' artist page, I came across a band I hadn't thought about since college: Penfold. Thinking this was a different Penfold than the one I knew in college, I was happy to see that it was the same band. I thought about why I had slept on this band for all the years. Then it hit me: over-saturation.

Working in college radio between 1999 and 2002, I saw firsthand bands like the Promise Ring and the Get Up Kids gain much more exposure, beyond the regular crowd that would see them in basements, garages, or living rooms. This was post-Very Emergency and post-Something to Write Home About, and people who didn't care for emo were listening to these bands. As a result, the mailrooms at college radio stations across the country received a lot of records that came with some nice pushes via a handful of publicists. With bands like Sinclaire, Filmmaker, and Chore, I was designated as the Guy Who Liked Emo by my fellow co-workers at KTCU. I received plenty of freebies because nobody else wanted them.

By then, I was getting tired of all these bands who sounded a little the same. Some things were getting a little too cutesy. Sinclaire's Attention Teenage Girls reeked of this, especially, even though I really liked the song, "Life at 24 Frames a Second." Keep in mind, this was before Taking Back Sunday and well before Fall Out Boy.

Listening to this stuff every few weeks, I'd get excited about a few records here and there, but dismissed a number in the process. One of the dismissed was Cursive's Domestica because I thought it sounded like a Fugazi rip. Years later, I realized how great this record was, especially its lyrics, despite the obvious nods to Fugazi.

Now with rediscovering Penfold's Our First Taste of Escape (and finding out about the even-better, Amateurs & Professionals via CYLS), I can see why I can enjoy this now as compared to a decade ago. Since I'm not engulfed by hearing new bands every week and having to deal with people who hated emo/post-hardcore, I can enjoy. Sure, the band certainly sounds like Elliott and Christie Front Drive, but they did things in a way that sounds really fresh to me now.

If you've never heard of bands like this or wonder why anyone would bother with records from the past, imagine this scenario. Say your favorite band right now is Mumford & Sons. You listen to their records regularly, you hear about upcoming tour dates, read about them in articles and interviews, and you're painfully aware of how much critics and certain people your age hate them. You discover acts that have a similar sound to Mumford & Sons and you enjoy them as well. Then you get to a point where your ears and mind need a rest from all this music. It could be a few days, months, or even years.

For whatever reason, you find yourself listening to the band again and some of those similar-sounding acts. In my case, listening to Penfold and Sinclaire is a lot easier to take in when I'm also listening to Richard Hawley, Jay-Z, and the Menzingers as well. Mix Penfold and Sinclaire with Into It. Over It and Everyone Everywhere, you'd hear plenty of noodling guitars, twisted drumming, and near-screeching singing coming from my office or car stereo. It's all about indulging in what I'm loving in the now.

And boy, am I happy to be in the now, even if it's listening to records that came out ten years ago.

1 comment:

Penn Collins said...

I think you're spot-on with the Mumford and Sons analog. As you find with M&S fans, they are almost genetically predisposed to liking Lumineers, Avett Bros, and Of Monsters and Men.

Nowhere have I found bands in a genre intrinsically grouped together as I have with Emo bands of the 90's and 00's. You're more likely to hear Promise Ring and The Get-Up Kids mentioned together in a sentence than apart, and the sort of package acceptance of those bands was always a turn-off for me, as though their loyalists were fans of the genre much more than they were the actual bands, which led me to believe that the attraction was more one of lifestyle than it was the music.

I think revisiting them a decade later could help cut through all that, but with so much music at our disposal right now, I'm still sour enough on emo to keep it on the back burner in favor of new pursuits.