Hey there, this is the first of — I don’t know how many, actually — guest posts for Emo Wednesdays. Nate Little and I share a passion for the pop-punk/powerpop emo of the mid-2000s and beyond (and, for him, before). It’s become ritual for us to talk about our favorite songs when we hang out and to karaoke lots of them in the car. Show him and his pin brand, Voodesigns, some love, especially because their “Recovering Emo Kid” patch helped inspire Emo Wednesdays.
Hi, my name’s Nate, I’m a Recovering Emo Kid.
When Chris first told me about his intent to start doing “Emo Wednesdays” I knew I had to get in on this action. Hell, when we first met while working as interns for the Orange County Register the first thing we bonded over as roommates was, well, Disneyland actually, but the second was growing up as degenerate pop-punk/emo kids. This is still a pillar of our friendship to this day — most of our hangouts devolve into a combination of revisiting and over-analyzing the music of our youth, with a lot of cringe-worthy stories of the sadboy adventures of our teenage selves. Yeah, we’re cool and we know it.
Those conversations gave me a lot of ideas for what I could do for my first guest entry on this blog, but I was pretty sure I had to start with what I consider the gold standard of angry-sad-lad music: Dashboard Confessional.
Let’s get this part out up front: Chris Carrabba is one of my favorite songwriters, and I still enjoy a lot of his work today — you can check out his side project Twin Forks’s single “Cross My Mind” to see what happens when an emo song grows a man bun and starts hanging out in bespoke coffee shops. Nevertheless, I’m sure a lot of my love of his work is owed to how spot-on he taps into the hair-trigger emotional disaster that is adolescent existence. Every song oozes INTENSE FEELS, from the high of an amazing date you’ll never forget in “Hands Down”, to the pain and frustration of a self-destructing relationship in “Again I Go Unnoticed.” Name an emotional state that only a hormone-addled teenager can understand…and I can give you a Dashboard Confessional song that pairs perfectly. Sometimes it can get a bit melodramatic, but who doesn’t love a bit of hyperbole when relationships are involved?
Dashboard was one of my emo gateway drugs, shared with me via the early 2000s tradition of the burned mix CD. One of my better friends in high school was my grade’s token “long haired white guy who wore band shirts with skinny jeans and regularly had an acoustic guitar on him for no apparent reason.” Jacob was the kind of dude you’d I.D. as a stereotypical “emo” kid of the era, not that I knew it at the time. Its safe to say that I at best would have been pegged for a Skate Punk/Ska Kid from an outside perspective with my backwards hats, terry wristbands, ironic phrase t-shirts and cargo shorts down to my calves, but I also had a deeply ingrained “90s Indie/Alt Rock” nerd edge to my music tastes. (lets just say a couple years down the line when I came across MCS’s “I Am The Movie” I knew I had found the jackpot).
Barenaked Ladies’s “Stunt“ was the first non-Werid Al Album I ever owned and I loved discovering the power-pop jams of Fountains of Wayne and Guster while watching MTV2 alongside pop-punk’s more unique forms like Yellowcard and Something Corporate. So when I started burning my own mixes pulling from my library of alt-rock gems and growing collection of “albums by bands on Tony Hawk Pro Skater Soundtracks” we had a pretty solid music exchange going on.
There was a lot of other Emo Wednesday worthy bands on those CDs that Jacob shared with me — from Brand New to Taking Back Sunday — but the emotionally strained vocals and vicious strumming of Dashboard Confessional stood out as one of my favorites – I quickly picked up “Swiss Army Romance” and “The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most” for myself. My inner hopeless romantic who got waaaaay more worked up about the thought of asking a girl out than actually interacting with said girl in real life took regular infusions of those albums like an I.V. drip. Then “A Mark A Mission A Brand A Scar” came out and well – if there was ever an emo album that deserved mainstream success its that one. “Hands Down” may have been a surefire chart-topper but there’s plenty of other gems on the album. Two that always stand out to me are “Ghost of a Good Thing” a post-breakup song that’s almost too spot-on for its own good and “Hey Girl” is still a mental go-to for when I find myself infatuated with a woman who I know will be the death of me.
Knowing my music tastes, I couldn’t talk Dashboard without mentioning their episode of MTV2’s Album Covers series: I’m sure a lot of you forgot about those. Well now you too can geek out over Carrabba’s take on R.E.M.’S “Everybody Hurts” and “Nightswimming” or how about hearing Michael Stipe show up for a duet version of “Hands Down”! Enjoy responsibly:
Well, this has probably already gone on for far too long so I better wrap things up: I know Chris usually uses Emo Wednesdays to parse through parts of his life with a particularly resonant song or album, but I could probably do a whole series on just Dashboard tracks if I’d tried to do that. I strongly equate the idea of “Emo” with the raw emotional rollercoaster that plays out in those early Dashboard Confessional albums, as such there’s a large section of the genre that I never could quite get into because it didn’t live up to the musical or emotional standard that Carrabba set.
There’s a lot of music that I love to this day that came from my emo period, and I can think of countless instances where its helped me get through hard times. And while I feel like I’ve mostly grown out of being an “Emo Kid,” some days it just feels good to cry it out for a bit with some whiny acoustic jams just to get it out of your system.
I’m glad Chris actually let me word vomit all over his blog – hopefully he’ll let me back to remember being 21 and Invincible, while Stuck in America where San Dimas High School Football Rules which admittedly was a Big Drag. I’ll MakeDamnSure it’s not A Lifeless Ordinary, no La La Lie, it will be a real Pop Punk Pizza Party, even if it is Way Away.