Sunday, October 28, 2007

Jewish Emo?

So, 'emo' music has always baffled me a bit. Musically, it's an offshoot of American hardcore punk, but lyrically has more in common with British "Alternative" bands of the late 80's. Thing that I find funny about it, and this is just me getting old I guess, is how redundant the combo is. Hard driving music about crying in your beer. Boys wearing mascara and writing poetry. Right, we've been here before. Repeatedly. But that doesn't mean that it isn't fun the second (or tenth) time around.

While I don't write about it, I listen to a lot of non-Jewish music and heard a fun emo track this afternoon, Fall Out Boy's "Thnks fr th Mmrs." It got me to ask the obvious (for me) there Jewish emo?

The answer, it seems, is not so much. And the question was anticipated and tackled a few months ago by Arye Dworken of Heeb Magazine. I'll admit that I'm not a huge fan of Heeb. I find the writing to be an exercise in hip irony with little substance. My one year subscription lapsed without much sadness. The music writing in particular was pretty poor stuff. A lot of 'lets get some random person (someones aunt or rabbi) to write about contemporary music that they have no context for and then giggle about it'.

Anyway, Dworken's blog is much more interesting. And his two long posts on emo and Judaism are a good read. Here's an excerpt...
"...The most admirable aspect of emo is the encouragement of true, unrepentant expression. Emo asks that you hide nothing and express everything. Every girl that broke your heart—well, write a song about her. All the pain you’re feeling inside—share it with us so we can say, right on. I so know what you mean, man. But if there’s one self-perpetuating stereotype (out of many) that the Jews want to escape, it’s their propensity to complain. ... Now, stereotypically, being emo is too close to being Jewish and this is one reason why there are very few Jews in emo. ...Emo focuses so hard on the pain and the effects of bad things that it rarely seeks out a solution. The genre is so un-Jewish because it’s so unambitious.
Dworken goes on to list a few Jewish musicians in emo bands, including Joe Trohman of Fall Out Boy. None of these musicians, or the groups they belong to, publicly connect their music to Judaism, but the new Rockaway Park group "The Return" does. While they're not in the league of Fall Out boy yet, they're off to a good start. You can check them out at their Myspace page.

So it seems that while emo hasn't been a particularly popular genre for Jewish musicians, it hasn't been completely ignored either. If you want to get a slightly tongue-in-cheek view on what Jewish emo might look like, check out Mordechai Shinefield's "Jewish Emo Band" performance at Mima'amakim's "Telos and Tahlis" from May 2005.

I had a little more time today and went and actually read the Wikipedia article on emo and think I have a better handle on it. The article lays out three phases of emo, each of which steps further away from the punk scene. The first scene, though, has a number of bands that I'm pretty familiar with, including Fugazi and Dag Nasty (but not, 7 Seconds, which surprises me). It also cites the post-punk band Husker Du, one of my fav's, as a big influence. Huh. Shows you what happens when you blink. I missed all this. I wasn't listening to this kind of music much as the second and third phases's evolved. It also appears that most emo bands don't even like the term emo and don't get it either. Makes me feel a bit better ;)

For one last, tongue in cheek, look at emo check out the video "What is emo?" at YouTube.

Ok, Mordy Shinefield emailed me this morning about the Jewish emo musician Max Bemis and his band Say Anything. His song "Alive with the Glory of Love" is fabulous and definitely Jewish themed. Check out my post about the song and watch the video.


Mordy said...

On the topic of Jewish emo music: Check out Say Anything's Alive with the Glory of Love. I don't want to spoil the theme (mostly because it works much better if you figure it out while listening to it) but it's simply amazing.

Jack said...

Hi Mordy, I'll do that.

It's funny you should mention Say Anything. I just posted about Max Bemis of Say Anything being on the Heeb 100. I was curious about how much Max brought Jewish themes to his music. The profile implied that he did.

Arye said...

Hey Jack. You should pick up Heeb again when you get the chance. We've been really tight with the music coverage in the past few issues. No more of that shticky comedian-review bit. I think you'd dig. This upcoming issue is going to have Silver Jews, Monotonix, Scarlet Johannsson, Yael Naim and some more good stuff. Hope you're well. Keep up the goodness.

Jack said...

Hi Arye..Ok will do.

Jack said...

Arye..drop me an email if you get a minute. I'd like to chat about Heeb. I did a fast scan of the last few issues (what's available on line) and saw just about nada in terms of music coverage. The closest thing I saw as a Todd Goldstein bit on Marissa Nadler from issue Heeb 14. The money quote... "I have a neurotic impulse to create that I think is very much a Jewish thing" Wow, Jews are neurotic. Insightful. If that's what you mean by tight music coverage, I'm still underwhelmed. Is there better? Could you point me to something in particular?