By Eli Shively, Reviews Editor
Being the total punk rock nerd I am, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t mourn the death of every Midwest emo band I’ve ever loved. It seems as though the vast majority of them are now broken up, and the ones managed to out-survive the great “revival” of the genre, a period that now feels like forever ago to most music fans, are moving forward with their sound and overall artistic vision. Empire! Empire! started capitalizing their name, Foxing are now making what can probably best be described as “emotive post-rock”, and The World Is… are signed to the same label as a Ronnie Radke band.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I miss the days when great, fresh sounding emo bands were just a few clicks on Bandcamp away, when seeing Modern Baseball on Pitchfork was actually a big deal, and when “skramz” and “twinkle daddies” weren’t such dirty words. Well, okay, maybe not that last thing, but you get the idea.
So, for this edition of Editor’s Den, I decided to see if I could make happen in 2016 what in 2013 seemed so simple—find a new, largely unknown emo band that I really liked. The obvious first step, aside from logging on to good ol’ Bandcamp.com, was to peruse through everything the “emo” tag had to offer. After skipping through a few pages of names like Sorority Noise, From Indian Lakes, and Marietta (RIP), I finally stumbled upon Plainclothes, a Boston band who exist on the twinklier end of the emo spectrum.
The first thing I remember thinking upon seeing Plainclothes’s page was ‘…wow. This is exactly what I’m looking for.’ I loved how their record was named Dog Logic, how they tagged their music with “Kinsella”, and song titles like “Burt Reynolds, Burnt Candles” and “Categorical Imperative”. Just looking at it all brought back memories of my early days reviewing tiny emo bands at Funeral Sounds, the first music blog I ever wrote for (shouts out to Mark Garza, by the way). Ah, nostalgia.
While staring wide-eyed at the screen was pretty satisfying in itself, I eventually knew I had to get going and hit the darn play button already. To my immediately surprise and delight, a lo-fi twinkly guitar riff filled my ears. Man, I really hope I never get tired of those. As the opening track, “Poodles and Pool Noodles”, progressed, I found myself mentally checking off everything a nice, upbeat emo song needs. Gang vocals, catchy chord progressions, varying tempos and grooves throughout the track, lyrics like “drive yourself the long way home”— it was all there. Plainclothes was definitely giving me that “new band that I really like and want to listen to over and over again” feeling.
The rest of the album offered more of the same—not like there’s anything wrong with that, though, to quote a certain beloved 90’s sitcom. Plainclothes gave off just the kind of vibe I had in mind when I set out on my Bandcamp journey for good, lesser-known emo. The sound was lo-fi enough to seem warm and endearing without ruining the sound, and they incorporated the right amount of twinkle to stay interesting and catchy but not obnoxious, and wrote songs that felt fleshed-out while still mostly clocking in at under two and a half minutes. A great deal of balance goes into making a solid record in this style, and Plainclothes are without a doubt masters of the concept.
To bring this edition of Editor’s Den to a close, I’m honestly not sure how easy it is to find good emo just anywhere online nowadays. Maybe Evan Weiss’s belief holds true and the music world is going through yet another stage of “not paying attention”. Either way, Plainclothes proved to me that it’s not completely impossible to find a good emo band that you’ve never heard of these days, and if you’re a fan of the genre, you should definitely give them a shot.