Teenage boys have angst. I was a teenage boy once. With an acne covered face, pipe cleaner arms, and my perpetual awkwardness around girls (hmmm..., since I don't have stud appeal going for me, I'll win the ladies by sticking insects in my mouth, balancing on teeter-totters, and snorting jello cubes. OK, the jello cubes were in college.), I turned to the elixir that all teenage boys drown their angst in; beautiful, blissful, angstful emo music.
My arms are still pipe cleaners (but I am getting a gym pass), and I still eat insects (they are good protein). I have, however, given up standing on see-saws (one broken arm to many for those shenanigans), and only get the occasional zit in times of stress. And in those times of stress, I still turn to those emo bands that helped an awkward teenage boy express his emotions oh so many years ago.
Please allow me to clarify. These were back in the days before emo became a swear word and joke in the music world. A couple bands in the mid nineties (Sunny day Real Estate, being one of the primary and most important; Fugazi being the first) formed this new and interesting genre, and by the late nineties-early 00s emo was the thing to be, so bands in high school would ask,
"what should we call our genre?"
"I don't know....emo is cool. lets be emo."
Pretty soon every band was doing this until what was "unique" and cool eventually became lame and satirized to no end.
It happened to grunge before it (remember when everyone liked Creed, and then when everyone hated Creed?), and will happen to "indie" next (don't worry, it won't affect the music...all the bands that once called themselves emo just call themselves indie or punk now and still basically sound the same).
There are those bands that have a way of helping you understand yourself; that speak into a situation that you couldn't quite express any other way. Singing "Getting over you" with Acceptance after a high school break up, or singing a Copeland song with that cute girl from youth group on your mind that you know is out of your league; these were the bands that told me what I was feeling when I couldn't quite peg it myself.
A couple of those bands on Tooth and Nail were Further Seems Forever, The Juliana Theory, Anberlin, Mae, and underOATH.
Its not hard to see most of these bands success and contribution to the music world. Anberlin is now a major label success, Mae has been on Capitol records, and is now doing there own thing independently (a current trend it seems; Radiohead, Switchfoot...).
UnderOATH first created the classic screamo sound that every screamo band would eventually try to emulate with their acclaimed They're Only Chasing Safety, and then drastically changed their sound and hit number 2 on the billboard 200 in 2006, the first time a Christian artist had done so since '97--not just a Christian band--a METALCORE Christian band; #2 on the Billboard 200! wow. Their latest album, Lost in the Sound of Separation only got the best of reviews from just about everyone.
The Juliana Theory developed quite a fan base, and developed the emo genre greatly. Singer and guitarist, Brett Detar's other project Zao has done volumes for Christians in the metalcore genre (underOATH included)--and simply for metalcore in general--having been labeled one of the hardest bands....ever.
But the band I really want to focus on is the one I called favorite throughout high school.
Further Seems Forever did emo right. I jumped on board with their second album, How to start a fire, but each of their records were brilliant (each of the three albums had a different lead vocalist).
Arguably, FSF greatest contribution to the world of music isn't anything they did, but rather jump starting the career of Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional fame. I say arguably because I love FSF far more then Dashboard (don't get me wrong, I feel no shame in stating that Dashboard is great).
Each lead singer brought something unique and beautiful to the mix that set apart each album. Yet, it never felt like you were listening to a new band...even though the style of lyrics and singing change quite a bit.
with Chris Carrabba on The Moon is Down, you got that standard emo vibe. Just beautiful music. It's really no surprise that Jeremy Enigk of Sunny Day R. Estate came along to help Chris get Dashboard going strong (Oh, and there's another side note. At one point the famed Jeremy Enigk was on T&N records with a band called Poor Old Lu with the likes of Aaron and Jesse Sprinkle--Aaron now an amazing producer and head of the band Fair, and Jesse drumming for Demon Hunter as well as several other bands).
Jason Gleason (now of ActionReaction) led for their second album, How to Start a Fire. Jason brought his amazing voice, and his strangeness. "...the trees are tired from breathing sharks keep moving never stopping..."--what the heck kind of lyrics are these?! Even if the album makes no sense, it is still one of my favorites. ever.
Jon Bunch (formerly of Sense Field) also brought his unique, beautiful and warm voice to the helm of FSF. He also brought the most powerful lyrics that the band ever had. Hide Nothing is more worshipful then many worship albums. Lead the Way has become my life song.
Tooth and Nail deserves props for discovering some truly beautiful and innovative bands that lead in the formation of modern emo music. I'll pump the fists of my pipe cleaner arms to these bands any day.