Bad Scene, NME’s Fault

As you may have previously read, I have been listening to a lot of Joie De Vivre. As it was confirmed by their recent brilliant gig in Brighton they are incredibly awesome. They have been described by many people as ’90’s emo revivalists’ which is fair, they do play in that Mineral-esque style. But the word ‘Revivalists’ got me thinking. To revive something than surely it has to die or go away in the first place. Emo did quite clearly die, but when? I can think of what a lot of people would reply but I think it may have happened before anyone started to panic at disco’s and the such.

A little while ago, after the Is this thing on? top 100 emo songs had finished, I was going through some old stuff and found something I’d been keeping hold of for 10 years. Something which had pissed me off so badly at the time that I thought must buy it, keep it, stash it in a drawer and then find it 10 years later to be pissed off by it again. The offending item was a copy of the NME from January 2002, harmless enough you may think but this issue of the New Musical Express just so happened to piss all over everything I was still very much in to at that point. The NME had done an EMO issue!!!

Anyone who has ever read the NME knows to take a lot of what they print with a pinch of salt. The amount of hype they apply to things is shocking at times, the same year they published this issue they had declared the Vines first album as the greatest debut album ever made?!? I mean, come on!! The NME wasn’t aimed at me, I read it from time to time to keep up and mainly because the gig adverts were quite handy back in the days that the internet worked as well as my back does. I was happy that they didn’t cover bands that I was in to, we didn’t need it to. We had other ways and means to find bands to fall in love with, like talking to each other and going to shows and talking to people there. And it wasn’t just the fact that they were going to write about bands that I liked but it was the manner in which they were going to do it.

At first glance you can see that it’s not going to be good. Look at the front cover:

What posessed them to make it look like a fanzine? They must have been trying to appeal to those that were already in to these bands whilst simultaneously educating those that weren’t. This didn’t work at all. It looks as authentic as those t-shirts that touts would sell on the streets outside venues in London when big bands were playing. Trying to make it look like they had made the cover by printing out the words and then using scissors, glue and a photocopier when it was obviously done by someone on a computer.

Opening the issue and turning to the middle you find 11 pages dedicated to Emo. Which is quite a lot, they are giving it a fair crack and I guess the first bit does an ok job. It begins with a page entitled what is emo? and goes on to explain a loose history mentioning bands like Rites of Spring and Heroin, predicts that Hundred Reasons and New End Original will soon be household names and finishes by surmising that Emo will be the death of nu-metal and will “steal punk rock back from the neanderthals.” The next 2 pages are given over to an interview with Jimmy Eat World which is fair enough, I love Jimmy Eat World and have done since the late 90’s. I never begrudged them getting a lot of attention and popularity as it never seemed to affect their ability to put out good records, although it was annoying when the audience at their shows would start to get younger and younger and would ignore anything pre Bleed American that the band would play. It’s the next few pages that really started to piss me off. (Well actually the next page was an ad for Telewest Broadband which boasted that you would soon be able to download “12 mp3 tracks in just 15.6 minutes”!! Woah!!! it was the pages after that were annoying)

The next 2 pages explore the world of emo. On the right of the page are a list of influential albums which include Embrace, Moss Icon and Texas Is The Reason so you start to think oh ok, maybe this won’t be so bad. But on the left the NME saw it fit to start ripping the piss out of the whole thing so then you think, oh right so they don’t get it then. Of course they don’t, this is the NME. They like to cover things so they can say that they have but they also love to slag things off so they can appear to know better than anyone. Nme loved to do this, build something up then tear it apart, which makes them no better than any tabloid newspaper. With Emo they did it in the same issue. The top of the page states “emo: the rules” and explains that basically all you have to do is cry. Open up, find yourself, dress like a librarian and cry some more whether you are in the crowd at a show or in the band themselves. “You can’t be in an emo band without crying, rolling around on the floor and beating yourself in the chest”. The only time I ever saw a band member cry at a show was when my old band supported Kneejerk in London and their singer/bass player, one Frank Turner, dropped to his knees at the end of the set with tears clearly running down his cheeks. This wasn’t a regular occurance, of course it wasn’t and Nme knew this. The fact that underground punk music of any of it’s many varieties was about community and being able to do it yourselves without the help of mainstream media was not enough of a story for them to fill an 11 page feature.

The cartoon cut outs of an emo boy and girl on the opposite page, pictured above, were enough to make you stop reading and wasting your time. It was one thing to try and be part of the scene by making the issue look like a fanzine and then namedrop some cool bands but then to make out that we were all a bunch of twats was just a joke. And it didn’t stop there.

The next page is a feature about Rival Schools, which lavishes them with praise, compares them to Nirvana and oddly boasts about how they are playing an NME show supporting Nickelback??!!?!? On the right of this page is the Are You Emo quiz. A test designed to prove to you that if you answer C to each question then you a definitely an emo. No questions like do you like emo music? or what’s your favourite Promise Ring album? No, just pointless questions to pint out that being in to emo means that you are shallow and fashion obsessed which to me is the NME in a nutshell.

Over the page is a feature about underground emo bands, such as Jets to Brazil, Garrison, The Get Up Kids and the Mars Volta (?!?), in which each band denies to have any link with emo whatsoever. And this is where you start to understand why emo died in the first place. No band liked to be called emo when it was the underground and zines calling them so, now that the mainstream press were doing the same there was no way these bands were going to accept it. Some quite clearly fought against it, The Get Up Kids and The Promise Ring both started making albums that sounded nothing like what had preceeded them. Bands that had barely any of the talent of these older bands started to break out and make money, partly because they were willing to play ball and then you have the grunge explosion of the 90’s all over again, although to a lesser extent. Those that were originally in to it moved on to other things. The last pages of the feature are about Hundred Reasons but I’d given up by then.

A few years later I was suckered in to this again. I noticed an NME front page declaring that emo was back. I was curious, what could they mean? I read the article which instructed me to check out a couple of bands, I hadn’t heard a good new emo band for some time and was willing to give it a shot. So, like they said I typed Fall Out Boy and Panic At The Disco into google and found their Myspace pages and oh my god. NME you fucking bastards, I can’t believe I fell for this. I slumped to the ground and wept, wept like the bastard they had accused me of being. Not really, I didn’t cry, they would have bloody loved that.

It seems ok to say you like emo again now. It has completely reverted back to how it was in the 90’s with bands playing amazingly brilliant music and people using word of mouth to find out about new bands. I just really hope it stays this way this time. I don’t know what i’d do if I walked past a newsagents and saw Algernon Cadwallader on the front cover of the NME. Please let that never happen.

I’ll stop my whining now. Thanks for reading xx

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6 thoughts on “Bad Scene, NME’s Fault

  1. Lee says:

    Well said. Apart from a few great records that slipped out under the radar, I prefer to pretend that the mainstreamo noughties didn’t exist. Thank christ we’ve got our underground back. And Joie de Vivre… wow.

    • alextb3 says:

      cheers, i think it’s definitely getting easier to pretend it didn’t exist and I never thought we’d have this comeback with so many really great bands making new music. thanks for reading and commenting x

  2. Gary Sleith says:

    I remember this issue…I also remember a Kerrang! Emo special issue from a number of years back, shortly before Relationship of Command came out. It was pretty good if I recall, had a good interview with J Robbins(who at the time was playing to dozens of people in the UK with Burning Airlines) and had a side feature with ‘the next wave of Emo stars’ which I think included At The Drive-In(who they predicted would bring ‘Mo into the mainstream) JEW, Promise Ring and a handful of others. I think I still have it back in an attic in Ireland..i’ll have to dig it out next time i’m back home

    • alextb3 says:

      I never saw that but would love to look at it. I remember kerrang doing a top 30 emo songs a few years later which was just dreadful. But they did give my old band 4 out of 5 for our first record so I forgive them

  3. I find it extraordinary that a certain generation of seriously-minded music geeks (35-50 year olds, basically) insist that once upon a time, the NME was worth reading. The first time I bought a copy (it was for ‘research’), there was a news item about how Pete Doherty (pre-crack/Kate Moss) and Carl whatsisface from the Libertines had met Morrissey (sorry, ‘Mozza’) backstage at something or other – complete with happy snap of Doherty and Thingumajig gurning like fanboys next to a visibly embarrassed Stephen Patrick.

    On the letters page, somebody had written in suggesting in quite mild terms that music wasn’t ALL about image, and that bands like the minutemen were of value without having a marketable brand. There was an astonishingly sneery editors reply, saying that all such bands were boring and music was, indeed, all about image. Case closed. In fairness, they did give the then-new Satyricon album 9/10, though without betraying the slightest familiarity with black metal.

    The first time became the only time, and I have not bought it since – in which time, of course, Morrissey has sued on the basis that he was framed for racism, and a new (even more toothless) editor now puts Rihanna on the cover, on the timehonoured philistine argument that ‘good music is good music regardless of genre’, as if we need the NME’s help to decide if we like Rihanna or not. There’s a lot of guff around about the internet killing print media. I reckon it will kill what is already dead – the NME.

    PS: So, uh, what band were you in?

    • alextb3 says:

      Wow, what an awesome comment. I wonder how long it will be until the NME is gone, everyone I know that ever bought it no longer does so it won’t affect much aside from some over hyped ‘indie’ bands with bad haircuts who may be temporarily upset.
      I used to be in a band called the Babies Three in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Our greatest acheivement was, as the online archive tells us, that our first record was part of John Peel’s personal collection, which we’re more than happy with.
      cheers for reading and commenting

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