Tues Aug 5
Mon Aug 4
In the June 29 issue of the New York Times Magazine, writer Jonathan Dee coined 2003 the "Summer of Screamo"--a label used for the groundswell of bands like the Used, Glassjaw, Thrice, and Thursday, who to me sound as dully rejected and painfully commercial as plain old pathetic emo (only they yell instead of whimper). I did like Dee's quote from Tom Beaujour, the editor of hard-rock mag Revolver, though: "The history of screaming is really just the history of rock getting louder and more outrageous. It's almost like an arms race. What can I do that is the next level of sonic rebellion?"
I agree with that--but really, screamo is about as rebellious as the Hot Topic chain selling skull-and-crossbones patches. There is an arms race for rebellion, always has been; but when I get a video a week from these new "crazy" major-label, radio friendly punk bands, my interest in the mainstream retreats even further. I love the energy and experimental nature of the more difficult avant-hardcore acts--from their unscientific mixtures of so many "unpopular" genres to the sweat-stenched basements, makeshift all-ages venues, and low-entry dives they tend to play in.
Of these avant-hardcore acts, the Locust, who come through town this week, are probably the closest to becoming a household name, and are well-known enough to be called sellouts by purists who hate everything once it has too much label money behind it. Their new record on Anti-, Plague Soundscapes, shows that the Locust's grindcore special effects have tripled: Keyboards buzz the guitars like low-flying fighter planes, ramping up the band's penchant for sounding as manageable as a hive of hornets.
Philadelphia's An Albatross are another interesting avant-hardcore act, making the same kind of clipped cyborg-speed constructions as the Locust. Their excellent new record, We Are the Lazer Viking, is an eight-minute race through 11 songs, mashing up metal, grindcore, and prog rock along the way with an analog synth, Farfisa, and the prerequisite rhythm-section swarm. The vocals are more "rabid dog" than the Locust's "rabid insect," and the four-year-old band's tangents into things like whale-mating-style effects add to their eclectic sound.
To me, this is where the forward force of punk is really snarling, chained to a rapidly growing indie audience and about to break loose into the (remote) reaches of the mainstream audience's attention span, thanks to percolating label interest, the Internet, and constant touring. The real raw-throated rebellion pours out in the records and performances of avant-hardcore acts.