Eulogizing Pastepunk

So, today it was announced that Pastepunk.com was shutting down. This might not be huge news outside of the “people who read punk website” set, but it is huge to me. When I first got stoked on punk rock, there were two sites I checked daily. PunkRocks was one, and Pastepunk was the other. Both of those site are now done, and it is a goddamn shame.

I have been reading Pastepunk for over a decade, even after it became heavy on strict hardcore and metal bands (despite my general ambivalence to the former, and general dislike of the latter). The reason is because I grew fond of the people doing it. I liked going back and reading the old columns. Jordan Baker always had good ones (my favourite was “Attention: Distributor Of Scene Points”), as did Tami Ryan. Punknews is great, but it doesn’t allow itself to have the personality that Pastepunk (or PunkRocks for that matter) had.

I started high school in 1999. As is the case with a lot of people, I really got into punk rock while in high school. I missed the mid-90’s punk stuff because I was too young to understand it (I was only nine or ten when records like Dookie, Smash, and Stranger Than Fiction came out and brought mainstream attention. Never mind the older stuff). After an awkward phase of radio alternative rock and nu-metal in the late 90s, I finally discovered punk. From then I was on a mission to find new things. Pastepunk was right up my alley.

Most punk sites and blogs want to be Punknews, which is fine. I want to be Pastepunk. My ultimate goal, if I could find a way to balance content and quality here, is to accomplish just half of what Pastepunk did. I want to provide to some young punk kid with what Jordan Baker and his contributors provided to me. I’ll probably never be that good, but it is my goal. While my tastes diverged from what they were covering, Pastepunk was hugely important in my growth as a music fan. It was where I fully formed my love for the forbidden beat.

Thanks a bunch Jordan. Broken Lamps And Hardcore Memories was fucking great.

REVIEW: Handguns – "Don’t Bite Your Tongue"

Handguns is one of the million bands doing the whole pop punk meets hardcore thing. What we have here is an EP of dudes singing stereotypical songs about how girls are mean. You know, the whole “you broke my heart” schtick. Which is obviously nothing new, especially given the genre. But, goddamnit, just because it is the genre norm does not make it any less stupid. The RIYL for this record is The Wonder Years, The Movielife, Fireworks, and Set Your Goals. Sounds about right.

Saves The Day, New Found Glory, The Movielife, and even Fall Out Boy could write this kind of stuff without it being fucking terrible. Not the case here. I mean, musically, this is pretty standard stuff. It sounds like any Drive Thru Records type band (circa 2000-2005). If that was your bag, then this is up your alley. But, the lyrics are fucking terrible.

“Scream Goodbye” give us this gem:
“I don’t regret a thing I did, I don’t regret a thing I said.

I’d drive nails into my ears to get your voice out of my head.
And I would rather die, or staple gun my eyes, than have to see your face again,
You’re wasting all my time.”

“I Hope He Kills You” give us:
“You’re always on the wrong side of the turnpike.

I want to choke myself to death with the phone line.
‘Go your own way and I’ll be with you,’

but nothing that you ever say could make me hate you.”


(Sidebar: Fuck you guys for quoting Further Seems Forever in your goofy song. Especially when that song seems like an attempt to write a song like “Hope.” You are not the Descendents, you will never write a song like “Hope,” so stop.)
Basically, this is generic radio punk with generic lyrics. Seven songs at just about 18 minutes. I have listened to this record a few time in preparation for this review. I want my time back. Although, at 26, I am not the target demographic for this. Somewhere, an angst ridden 15 year old boy is stoked. So, why not give him some garbage that objectifies and degrades women? I mean, the only reason women exist is to serve as love interest props for guys to sing about, right? It will make you a quick buck. The current Warped Tour scene will eat it up.
No fucking thanks.

Emo Is Not Dead

Music, like everything else, is cyclical. A genre will come out, get over saturated, bastardized, and generally turned into a joke. The real aspect of that scene will go underground, and the scene will thrive again. This happened with ska (rather, ska-punk). That scene blew the fuck up due to pop acts like No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, Goldfinger, and the like. Due to the commercial expansion, and later collapse, lots of things of the scene were lost. Moon Ska Records closed it’s doors. Ska became a punchline. Music for band geeks to cover cheesy 80’s songs. It became a joke. However, with bands like Streetlight Manifesto, The Chinkees, The Slackers, and The Toasters (holy fuck, those dudes have been around forever), the scene managed to stay active. If not more underground.

The same is true for emo music. Like many people my age, I was first exposed to the genre via the early/mid 2000’s explosion of popularity. Shit, Jimmy Eat World managed to get a hit record. I was exposed through bands like The Get Up Kids, Thursday, Taking Back Sunday, and At The Drive-In. Those bands put out some great records. In some cases, I do not consider them “emo,” but they were certainly influenced by it.

Meanwhile, there was another big thing happening in the scene. It was the Drive-Thru Records era. That label was putting out record after record of radio ready “pop-punk” that was constantly getting classified as emo. Bands like New Found Glory, The Starting Line, The Movielife, and Something Corporate (ugh), were all getting tagged as being emo bands. Those bands were to emo what Reel Big Fish and Save Ferris were to ska. Ok for what they were, but totally muddying the scene. From the Drive-Thru bands, you had the further bastardization of what was emo. Most notably with bands like My Chemical Romance and Fallout Boy. The genre tag was getting applied to things that had nothing to do with the genre, and in some cases nothing to do with the greater punk scene in general.

Well, as is wont to happen, the scene became a joke. It became more of a term to describe bands catering to kids with shitty haircuts, a penchant for self-harm, and day-glo shirts. Bands like Braid, Mineral, I Hate Myself, Heroin, and the extended family of bands stemming from Cap’n Jazz fell by the wayside. Now it was shit like “I wish my grass was emo, so it would cut itself” or “how many emo kids does it take to change a light bulb? None, they would rather cry in the dark.” What the fuck happened?

Well, the real scene went underground. The mainstream thought it understood what emo was, while being totally unaware. Through labels like Count Your Lucky Stars Records, Square Of Opposition Records, and Tiny Engines Records, we are finally seeing good records coming out to wide release. There is a bunch of talk about there being a “Midwest emo revival.” I disagree with the phrase because, for some of us, the scene never died. There were always bands we could stand behind. But, of the newer crop, there is Snowing, Castevet (now CSTVT), Grown Ups, Perfect Future, and Football, Etc. They are plenty more, but those are my personal favourites.

It seems unlikely that the mainstream definition will ever change to being realistic of what the scene historically was (and currently is), but I do not think anyone expects it to. But, at least we can take back what is ours.

See also: Article  @ Chicago’s Newcity Music:
The New Emo: It’s back, living underground and thriving in Chicago

*the picture for this entry is of CSTVT. I do not know the source, but I got it from the band page for them on Punknews.org. Sorry.