Very Emergency

Band: The Promise Ring
Album: Very Emergency
Best song: The record brings me back. “Jersey Shore” is great, “Happy Hour” is good. Nothing beats “Emergency! Emergency!,” though.
Worst song: Most of these songs sound the same, let’s be honest.

I’ve touched on this in the past, but “emo” was “hipster” about ten years ago. When I was in college — god, I graduated seven years ago! — “emo” was bandied about and mocked as much as “hipster” is now. “Emo” had more of a defnition, as “hipster” seems to mean just about everything, from the Fleet Foxes to Kanye West to whatever else.

Nevertheless, the second wave of emo holds a special place in my heart. Outside of the soon-to-break-up Isis, I’ve seen the Promise Ring, Songs:Ohia/Magnolia Electric Co./Jason Molina and Tortoise the most times of any band. Remember Sesame Street?

It’s odd that I’ve seen the Milwaukee band so many times, but luck just made it so. The band played my college’s Springfest free concert one year and opened for other bands I’ve enjoyed twice. So, really, three of the five times I’ve seen the band, I wasn’t going to see Davey von Bohlen and Co. any of those times. I’ve seen TPR twice on their own.

TPR isn’t a bad band, by any means. Not unlike a lot of great bands — AC/DC, Superchunk, the Ramones and Neil Young come to mind — TPR does one song very well. And they do it over and over and over.

Davey von Bohlen’s place in the second wave of emo is greater than you’d think. As a younger man, von Bohlen’s band Cap’n Jazz is something of a influential flash. Bands from all around speak of it and some have named their bands after Cap’n Jazz songs (Scary Kids Scaring Kids, We Are Scientists, etc.).

TPR was a “next phase” band, and a lesser one. Again, von Bohlen’s slightly lispy Midwestern optimist vocal drives the band’s great work. The band’s first record, 1996’s 30┬░ Everywhere was outstanding. The band’s second record, Nothing Feels Good, was jaunty, and, sadly a bit of self-parody. It, in the light of 1997 college radio, was a huge hit. Not surprisingly, the album’s name was used as the title of a book about the emo movement.

Very Emergency produced the band’s great hits of college radio, “Happiness is All the Rage” and “Emergency! Emergency!” Both songs are oustandingly poppy and bring me back to my college years. Released my freshman year of school at Missouri, I feel like I should be dating my college girlfriend, playing tennis ball baseball and goofing off in English 20.

Which isn’t to say it’s a great record. If you’ve heard one song, you’ve gotten the idea. But, it’s a place in time for me, and isn’t that what music is about?

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