Emo in 10 bands part 1

May 6th, 2020

Awhile back, CD1025 weekender and emo kid, Bailey, challenged me to do a top 10 emo list. While it's not my favorite genre by any means, since it sprung from American hardcore, I do have respect for it and there are a number of bands I love. Since I'm an old dude, these are all older bands. This is the stuff that paved the way for your Paramores and MCRs of the world. 


1. Embrace

-Washington D.C. could be called the birthplace of emo. A number of the early bands were birthed during Revoution Summer. Embrace was Ian Mackaye's (Minor Threat / Fugazi) band. Depending on who you believe, it was either Ian's former bandmate, Brian Baker, or skateboard bible Thrasher Magazine who initially coined the term "emotional hardcore" in response to Embrace. That eventually became emocore then finally just emo. In my opinion, Embrace weren't the best of the D.C. bands from this era, but are still notable for Ian's participation and being one of the first. 




2. Rites of Spring

-ROS were another Revolution Summer band and one of the most revered. Legend tells of short, violent sets that generally culminated in broken guitars and the band breaking down in tears. They only played 15 shows, all in the D.C. area. A lot of these original bands didn't last long. Members went on to form Fugazi. A key band in this genre. 



3. Gray Matter

-Another D.C. band. I'm not sure one would really categorize Gray Matter as emo, but in my opinion, they shared a similar sound to Embrace and Rites of Spring. A personal favorite of mine, the Take It Back EP is a classic 80s punk record. Unlike most Dischord bands, Gray Matter still reform on rare occasion.  



4. Dag Nasty

-Ok, I promise I'll stop with D.C. bands after this one. I really do feel that it's the birthplace of this stuff. Dag Nasty featured Brian Baker, formerly of Minor Threat. It's funny that he's known for having talked smack on how Embrace were "emotional" and yet played guitar in a pretty emotional band. Dag Nasty went through a slew of singers and records exist with most of them. My favorite album, Can I Say, featured former DYS/future ALL singer Dave Smalley. The follow up, Wig Out at Denko's is worth a listen as well. Dag Nasty made some of the catchiest punk records of the 80s.



5. Jawbreaker

-Blake Schwarzenbach is one of those lyricists that people obsess over and for good reason. He writes lyrics that and poignant and relatable. Jawbreaker first popped up in the late 80s with the Unfun album and eventually made it to a major label for 1995's Dear You. Killer band that influenced legions. 



Part 2 next week!