At the ripe old age of 23, I've found myself doing a lot of recollecting of late. Maybe it's clearing out my old hardrive of photos, of researching teen interests for my job or maybe it's just the acknowledgement that The Black Parade is TEN YEARS OLD, but I've been thinking about one period in particular - 2007, the year that emo stole my heart.
Most of the photographic evidence from this period has been lost to corrupted memory sticks and bebo closure, but I trust me when I say that I was the real deal. I was outraged when the Daily Mail started their campaign against the My Chemical Romance 'death cult', my MySpace angles were on point and I even dabbled in skating once or twice with a board bought from the Argos catalogue for £19.99. Suggested lyric videos on YouTube were my education and I was a fully paid-up fan of Fueled By Ramen records. Fashion inspo came by way of Punkyfish, Hot Topic and whatever was in the adverts at the back of Kerrang! Pink checkerboard vans were life, next to my highly covetable Skellington Jack watch. And let's not even talk about the agony that went into picking the perfect song to have as my MSN screename - how were you supposed to pick between Taking Back Sunday and The Used? Oh, and let's not even talk about how excited I was about that Twilight/Paramore crossover...
I don't really remember how I got into emo, but I'm guessing it was a slippery slope of gateway bands that went something like Mcfly > Greenday > My Chemical Romance and so on. Couple that with a whole bunch of pubescent hormones and the teenage desire to be part of something, and I guess you have the answer.
Even ten years later, I still think fondly of those times - it's no exaggeration to say that they made me completely what I am. From spending hours on the MCRArmy live journal website, frittering away my pocket money on rubber bracelets and customising HTML, I actually think I picked up some pretty marketable skills during my time as an emokid. Messageboards taught me empathy for strangers and allowed me to develop a much better understanding of mental health that I would have done on my own. I took a much wider interest in literature (some of those song had hella wordy titles) and began the long road to finding acceptance in the fact that I was never going to be 'mainstream' and like everyone else. It didn't even really matter that my afro hair couldn't quite make a proper fringe or that my skin didn't lend itself to a ghostly palour if I wanted to cosplay at Helena - emo was all about fitting in BECAUSE you didn't fit in anywhere else. It was a safe haven that came with it's own little superiority complex - I'm sure I'm not the only one who felt a little bit smug that my friends and I were part of something that was so 'alternative' to everyone else in my class at school.
|Aged 14 and undoing all my good emo work by smiling|
In lots of ways, I actually miss those times - the feeling of being so in love with a band, like they totally understood you and like their lyrics could save your life - it's a feeling I haven't really had in adulthood. Maybe that less of an emo thing and more of an age thing though - I look at the way 16-17 year old girls these days look at bands like The 1975 and Wolf Alice and realise it's not so different to the way I felt about Panic! At The Disco or Paramore. Although of course everything is different in the way we consume music - these bands are now only a tweet away. I wonder how different it feels to be a teenage music fan now then it did 7 or 8 years ago? That's a whole other blog post all to itself.
And although my love of emo quickly bled into new rave, and then indie and alternative, before landing me up where I am now as a fan of pretty much everything, I still feel an incredible emotional attachment to the music from that time. I'm immensely grateful to have been part of something that encouraged creativity, openness and honesty about depression and anxiety but also had a real sense of defiant positivity to it - something so often forgotten when people talk about the genre.
Here's a little run down of some of the records from that era that I still go back to regularly, and am not even ashamed of the fact that I would very much like to have in my Vinyl collection today -
My Chemical Romance - Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge
The OG of my emo education. Three Cheers was my first real exposure to the idea of a 'concept' album, a true experience of artwork and storytelling and of course, killer riffs. Listening to it now, I don't think I really appreciated quite how dark it was at the time, but I thank Gerard Way and co for how much they opened my eyes to off the back of this album.
There's been plenty of female-fronted emo bands since Paramore (and quite a few since), but Hayley Williams was definitely teenage me's idea of 100% goals. Riot! and 'Misery Business' in particular is such a marker for the moment when emo became bigger than a subgenre. It also marked a significant change in the uniform - black jeans were swapped for skinny yellow and reds and the 'scene' kid gained prominence
Of all the emo bands from that era, Panic! At The Disco will always have a special place in my part. 'Fever...' sounded like nothing my 13-year-old ears had ever heard - vaudevillian piano melding into electronics with some of the most obscure song titles (shoutout to "There's a Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven't Thought of It Yet"). Although it was My Chemical Romance who I think I had the most emotional attachment to at the time, looking back it was the first two Panic! records that really helped me through some difficult parental and friend issues - maybe it's because they're still going but I think people forget quite how much of a gamechanger this record was.
Oh Fall Out Boy, how you changed my life. I can't say I'm too into their recent stuff, but the songwriting on Infinity and Folie is just perfection, giving the fan just enough of an insight into Pete Wentz's mind to feel a genuine connection and affection for his sincerity about his own shortcomings. I've never really known why, but 'The After Life Of The Party' has always put me on the verge of tears - there's something really romantic in it's melancholy that just gets me right in the feels. And then of course there's 'Folie A Deux', which if you ask me, really should have been their final record - the hints of RnB production amongst the rock hit such a sweet spot.
Another classic, this was emo jenny at her finest, the soundtrack to a summer in florida spent scouring the mall for Etnies trainers and marvelling at the sheer amount of CD's in downtown Disney's Virgin Megastore (RIP). This record reminds me of how cool I felt to be a Blink 182 fan, like I was one of the boys and understood something that most 11-year-old girls couldn't. Internalised misogyny aside, it's still got some of the best tracks of their career - pressing play on 'Feeling This' brings all those memories flooding right back.