Wednesday, August 12, 2009

#141. 'If I could find you now things would get better'

Let's get something out of the way first: this is not emo. What has become known as emo these days is a weird hybrid of pop punk and arena rock that has nothing in common with even the least hardcore affiliated branches of emo from before. If nu-metal was a lazy way of encompassing all the movers and shakers on modern rock radio in the early decade, emo as it started to get used in the early decade was a lazy way to characterize this new crop of pop-punk bands whose material may have tended a bit too much towards being sad about life in general. Although you can trace out why this happened in some ways (it'll be discussed in a later post since ground zero for this shift is coming up a bit later) it still leaves a sour taste in my mouth the way that a genre as multifaceted and interesting as emo managed to make its way onto elitist shit lists based on what amounts to lazy marketing.

Anyway, let's get to the review for today....

Nostalgia is a powerful force. Anytime things get bad it's easy to convince yourself that by trying to get back to the simpler times, or what seemed like the simpler times at least, is the solution to all your problems. You idealize your youth as a paragon of uncomplicatedness, especially when you've just graduated and are finding that the job market is unforgiving even when you've got a useful degree...OK maybe that's just me. The point is that as you get older the good old days get looked upon with more rose-colored glasses the further you get from them. That's "Ocean Avenue" in a nutshell, albeit focused specifically on a relationship from that time as opposed to that time as a whole, and given it was released just after I graduated high school it's sort of become a touchstone for my own nostalgia.

At the time it was released I wrote it off. I was fully into my most snobbish phase of music geekery and was predisposed to look down on anything that sounded remotely popular unless I was in a more social setting. In other words, I'd dance to "Ignition (Remix)" but feel bad about it later. So "Ocean Avenue" flew right below as I looked down upon it. It was unambitious, glossy, post-blink-182 pop-punk shit as far as 17 year old me was concerned. Sure they had a violin, but it was a gimmick to me back then. Basically, I made the cardinal mistake of music criticism: I went into a new song expecting to hate it and ensuring it lived down to my expectations.

Cut to few years later and I hear it again. Around this time I had started to be less of an asshole about music, but still had a barrier built up against pop. The weird thing was that I immediately associated it with my graduation even though I know full well I didn't hear it until after that. It brought back that haze of graduation night, not the ceremony which meant fuck all since exams were still a few weeks away, but the grad dinner and the all night party the school sponsored (non-alcoholic and drug free, but with a hypnotist that convinced people they were watching porn. Decent trade-off all told) came flooding back. It made me smile a bit more than I'd admit back then, and Even now I associate it with the events it had no association with. A song about nostalgia was ticking off my own nostalgia about a perceived simpler time, essentially.

It wasn't until this year that I embraced it fully, because god damn is it a catchy little song. The drumming alone elevates it over 90% of the stuff in its immediate sonic neighborhood, those chorus fills are simple yet golden and far beyond what your average pop-punk drummer would be capable of. The violin still comes off a bit gimmicky, but in the outro when it actually takes a melodic lead capacity as opposed to getting crowded out by the huge guitars in the chorus it ends off the ong on a plaintive yet happy note. Vocally I can't help but think of a less Clash-aping Good Charlotte, but the delivery is exactly what the song calls for, hesitant yet strong in the verses ad reaching for anthemic grandeur in the chorus. It's a near-perfect summation of the best aspects of the whole arena punk movement even without the unexplained nostalgia factor.

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