Nobody likes labels, especially when they get stuck with one that they cant shake. Way back when, somebody came up with a tag called "emo." The details are shaky at best, but for what its worth, its short for emotion and is generically applied to bands who came out of the U.S. hardcore punk scene but slowed down their tempo to sing about their feelings. That out of the way, we can talk about Milwaukees the Promise Ring who, for better or worse, are the current emo poster children.
Formed in 1995, the four-piece followed the time tested approach for indie-punk bands. It released a slew of 7-inchers, toured constantly playing anywhere that had electrical outlets and, by word of mouth, amassed a modest but rabid fan base. Most of the bands early material, including its first full-length, 30 Degrees Everywhere, was plagued with dodgy recording quality. Still, Promise Rings live show and the music behind the murk showed that the band had some serious potential.
That potential finally got to shine through on the 1997 album, Nothing Feels Good. The critics could finally get what the fans had known all along: that cleverly arranged power chords and a less-than-linear look at everyday life could still be enthralling.
Now the Promise Ring has plenty to live up to. Hype or hope, theres a lot riding on the little band that could. Very Emergency starts with all the same ingredients. J. Robbins (ex-Jawbox) returns to produce; Davey von Bohlen can still write lyrics that perplex as much as they amuse and the band still sees itself as a work in progress.
What has changed is their fear of pop sensibilities. They no longer seem to feel the need to tweak things just enough not to be straight. The hooks have turned to sugar and the band seems more at peace with its small place in the world.
The album starts with "Happiness is All the Rage" and the band believes it. The songs fit more in the power-pop tradition, upbeat and radio-friendly. Even on such break-up songs as "All of My Everythings," von Bohlon doesnt seem too hurt.
Wordplay and an earnest approach still make the album endearing, but for those who first embraced the band for its unique take on everyman rock, Very Emergencys play-it-straight approach may disappoint.
If you take a hint from "Things Just Getting Good," the Promise Ring still isnt satisfied, but is still promising and is still worth a listen.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at email@example.com.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.