"When The World Is Crashing Down..."
by Michele Christopher

Music played while writing:  A mix of the bands below and Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine

Admit it.  You love emo.  You may be proud of the fact or it may be your dirty little secret, but you have a deep and insatiable thirst for overwrought, melodramatic lead singers wearing too much makeup and too much hair gel, writhing and flailing about onstage, screaming into their microphones, the weight of the world crushing their very soul.  You love the screaming, the wailing, the way that, in emo, every element of life seems designed to destroy you.  The world is wracked with pain and misery, death and destruction loom large above everything and the breaks don't exist.  They're not there.  Everyone's out to get you and the only thing you can do about it is sing--sing your fragile little heart out.

Okay, so maybe that's just me.  I don't know if you like emo or not, but I sure as hell do.  And while I'm proud of a lot of the emo I listen to, I own more than my fair share of embarrassing, dirty-secret emo.  Dashboard Confessional?  On my iPod.  Something Corporate and Jack's Mannequin?  I'm not going to deny it.  Mediocre, second or third tier bands like Alexisonfire and Aiden and Anberlin and Armor For Sleep?  It's there, though in my defense they were all passing listens.  Straylight Run?  It had two of the original members of Taking Back Sunday.  Of course I have it and, damn it, I like it.

But I don't apologize for any of it.  Emo is music for anybody who loves to revel in their pain.  Emo is for those who like to scream to their music while driving down the road.  Emo is for those who don't want background music so much as burning, consuming songs that you can let sweep you away into a place as dark as the world around you sometimes seems, even if you know it's only because you're indulging whatever emotions are currently kicking your ass.  And that's me.  Sure, it can be self-indulgent and silly, but that doesn't hurt anyone else, so I don't sweat it.

Besides, I think there's a lot of emo out there that also qualifies as great music.  Here are a few bands of that nature.

Thursday.JPGThursday - If I remember right, this band was my first real taste of emo.  My uncle, of all people, told me about this band.  Not because he listened to them, but because the band was recommended to him by a friend.  I picked up their album Full Collapse and was hooked.  It was the first time I had really been able to get behind screaming in music, whereas before I had considered it nothing more than annoying.  But this was different.  The lead singer, Geoff Rickly, has a voice vaguely reminiscent of Robert Smith that's somehow able to turn screaming into something compelling and melodic--not just a base and guttural revelation of pain, but honest-to-god music, backed up by raging guitars and pounding drums.  The songs are compelling, with strong themes and the album never lets down.  The band never eases back and lets you catch your breath.

Full Collapse for me was driving down the road, lost in the music, screaming like a fucking maniac, pounding the steering wheel and ignoring the people giving me strange looks as they drove past, fast and certain, eager to put as much distance as possible between their car and mine.  Queue up "Paris in Flames" or "Understanding in a Car Crash" or "How Long is the Night" or the brilliance of "Jet Black New Year," off their follow up EP, and tell me that's not worth your unbridled attention.  Rickly does screaming right, which is much of the music's allure.  It's loud and emotional, his voice always on the verge of breaking.  It's perfect.  It's emo as it should be.

Sample lyrics:

I shut my eyes / When you're around / I hold my breath / To kill the sound / I'm falling down / I'm falling down / And you're not here / To catch my fall

Recommended listening:  "Understanding In A Car Crash" and "War All The Time" at Purevolume

takingbacksunday.jpgTaking Back Sunday - Thursday paved the way for Taking Back Sunday, whose first album, Tell
All Your Friends
, was on the same Victory Records as Thursday's Full Collapse.  Taking Back Sunday was more mainstream emo, with the screaming toned down and offset by layered vocals.  In fact, the vocals onTell All Your Friends alternate between ragged singing that is close to but just short of screaming and that more traditional emo wail, peppered throughout, sometimes dominating and sometimes not.  The dual vocalists, though, lend a great complexity and originality to the sound of the album.  And understand, this album kicks ass.  It's strong throughout, catchy and upbeat, even though the lyrics are anything but happy.  The songs move fast and have a consistent sound, yet still manage to distinguish themselves, something that doesn't always happen on your run-of-the-mill emo album.  It's way, way too easy to lose yourself in this album and way, way too easy to sing along, just as emphatic and devastated as the actual singers.

Sample lyrics:

The truth is you could slit my throat / And with my one last gasping breath I'd / apologize for bleeding on your shirt

Recommended listening:  "Timberwolves At New Jersey"
"There's No 'I' In Team"

MyChemicalRomanceFigures.jpgMy Chemical Romance - I realize this is practically the official band of MySpace.  I realize that they are somewhat ridiculous, with the large amounts of makeup, the ridiculous outfits, the overwrought obsession with death.  Yes, they have an image that's cultivated to perfection, designed to appeal to every angst-ridden, death-obsessed teen and pre-teen out there.  Perhaps I'm supposed to be crying and cutting myself while listening to MCR, but you know what?  Fuck all that.  These guys rock, plain and simple. Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge is an amazing album, from start to finish, and it's one of those albums that I can listen to over and over and never grow tired of it.  This is damn good music.  The lyrics are fun and properly melodramatic, the mood dark and oppressive, and the sound is unique throughout.  Even the names of the songs are great.  If you can't get behind a song titled "It's Not a Fashion Statement, It's a Fucking Deathwish," then you're just not having fun.

If you've listened to the band and don't like the music, fair enough.  If you've dismissed them out of hand because of their appearance or audience, then think again.  Give Three Cheers a listen.  It's damn compelling, I'd argue, and you may just find yourself agreeing.

Fun bit of emo trivia:  the lead singer of Thursday, Geoff Rickly, produced My Chemical Romance's first album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love.

Sample lyrics:

And we'll all dance alone to the tune of your death / We'll love again, we'll laugh again / And it's better off this way

Recommended listening:  "Helena," "Welcome To The Black Parade," and "Thank You For The Venom" at

Brand_New.jpgBrand New - This is utterly respectable emo.  This band doesn't quite fit in with the above artists, but they do share similarities.  The vocals are much more low key, kicking up into a heavily affected sound at the emotional heights of the songs, rather than maintaining the heavy emotion throughout.  The songs build better and the underlying music is much more original than most other emo.  Furthermore, there's a stronger maturity and emotional complexity within the lyrics, particularly in their album Deja Entendu, than you generally find in a lot of other emo music.

Like Three Cheers, this is another one of those albums I can listen to again and again, for months and years, and I never get sick of it.  The music is somehow deeply satisfying, on a base and emotional level, to the point that I can't even explain it.  In fact, this is one of my favorite albums to fall asleep to when I'm drunk.  When drunk, this album satisfies me completely on an emotional and mental level, letting me fall unconscious with such a deep satisfaction that it's almost tempting to get drunk just so I can pass out to this album playing loud, dominating my mind.  I don't why this is the case, but it is, and I consider it a high
compliment.  There isn't a lot of music out there that can satisfy me on such a base, subconscious level.

Sample lyrics:

I've never felt so hollow / I'm an old abandoned church / With broken pews and empty aisles

Recommended listening:  "Okay I Believe You, But My Tommygun Don't"
"Play Crack The Sky"

Joel is burning like a bridge for your body.


I've written about three of these bands here on FTTW before - Taking Back Sunday, Brand New and My Chemical Romance.

I never apologize for the music I like. Even if it is emo.

(By the way, that's the same TBS line I usually use when giving someone a sample lyric)


I love emo. On fire.


aww christ am i gonna hafta go on my emo rant here too?


These are the people I beat up in highschool.

I am very sorry.

So very sorry.


(and I do like some of the music =)


I don't care what its called. If i like it, i like it. Your average emo band will put me to sleep, though.


JAWBREAKER. JAW FUCKING BREAKER. Best and if I had my way only emo band ever.


Michele, that's my favorite line from that album. How can you not love it?

Kali, feel free. Emo rants are fun.

Tim, I'll check out Jawbreaker.


Alexisonfire make great videos. Their singer is involved in another project, the name of which escapes me, but it's more acoustic than anything else and it's some of the best stuff on the radio these days. Don't know if they've made it down your way yet.

But we all love Dag Nasty, right?


This acoustic project from the Alexisonfire singer intrigues me. I'm a complete sucker for most anything acoustic. I'll try to track it down.


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