If I was a young emo fan who had grown up on Jimmy Eats World and Jets to Brazil, I think I'd be pretty pissed about the current state of my beloved genre. Whether you blame the benign sorrow of Dashboard Confessional or the neutered spirit of mall punk dreck like Saves the Day, the genre which was once defined by impressive slabs of angular, discordant punk softened by passionate, believable teen angst has come to sound simply like a pack of lily-livered whiners hiding behind homogenous minor chord progressions.
And this unfortunate reality is exactly the reason why a band like the Divorce should be poised for chart-rattling success.
Now don't get me wrong, this brash young Seattle band isn't textbook emo--they're far too dynamic to fall under that singular label--but they utilize the key elements that make the fans go crazy and wisely drop the schlock that's watered down the genre's previous potency. They have the requisite drop-dead pretty frontman: Singer-guitarist Shane Berry has an arrestingly beatific face and a sorrowful sprinkling of heart-shaped tattoos, but he's no Chris Carrabba clone. His vocal presence is darkened with shades of Cure-like, dour delivery, and refreshingly toned down by a winking, sardonic wit that keeps everything from getting too damn serious. The aggressive, adventurous style of second guitarist Garrett Lunceford functions almost like a built-in defense against cliché: His guitar lines somehow arc regally without sailing into shallow, radio-friendly waters and his uncompressible natural energy never feels forced.
Listening to rough mixes of their forthcoming sophomore release is both pleasurable and perplexing. I can't figure out why someone at Jade Tree or even Lookout! hasn't snapped these kids up--they still don't have a firm record label deal, and they've yet to tour widely beyond the West Coast. Predicting the whims of A&R suits is futile, but I certainly hope it isn't too much longer before someone catches this band live and realizes the Divorce is the perfect band for older emo kids who are getting hungry for something more self-effacing and less self-flagellating.