Review Summary: Before emo meant androgynous hipsters playing pop-punk
Before emo meant androgynous hipsters playing pop-punk, it was a adorable little sub-genre of hardcore punk, still trying to get some solid footing. Once the “core” bands of the late eighties (Embrace, Rites of Spring) became slowly phased out in the 90s, a new sound started to develop. Some bands from this era (Anasarca, Native Nod) were the forerunners of screamo, while others (the ones on this compilation) were the underground precursors (sometimes peers) to the first wave of “emo” bands that flirted with the mainstream (Sunny Day Real Estate, The Promise Ring). A lot of the bands that helped bring the sound about were short lived, and released only a few 7”s and compilation tracks. Some were good enough to be remembered (Jazz Man’s Needle, Big Daddy Shotgun, Moonraker); others still dwell in obscurity, their memory preserved because of their releases with peers. The Importance of Falling is an expose on the mid 90s emo scene; it has some good tracks, and some crap.
Most of the tracks here sound similar: they are slow to mid tempo, discordant chords, and a definite Indian Summer influence. However, the execution of the formula has varying success. The second half of the opener, Gingwin’s “Push My Friends Underwater,” consists of palm muted chords and odd drum fills that seem like a build up for a crescendo that never occurs, and instead just peters out. Piston Honda’s track, “Happy Motoring,” featuring lazily plucked minor chords and some violin interspersed throughout, never seems to go anywhere, and goes on for way too long, even at only 4 minutes. These songs aren’t really that bad, they just seem boring when compared to better bands that appear on this compilation.
Pecola’s track “Catabasis” just might be the best song on here. Featuring frantic discordant sections juxtaposed with eerie clean guitar chords that are being bent all over the place, Catabasis really shines when the harmonics are thrown in around 2:45, a perfect turnaround before the song ends just how it started. Mid Carson July, one of the better known bands on this compilation, contribute one of the best songs on here, complete with an infectious vocal hook. Jazz Man’s Needle and Big Daddy Shotgun both contribute excellent tracks, playing slow, almost sludgy, angular guitar riffs, with two of the best vocal performances on here. Speaking of vocals, Hall of Fame’s “Trailer Hitch” is a solid track which features one of the few female vocal performances in emo.
There are a few odd tracks thrown in here. Hood’s “Suspension Bridge” and Pong’s “Blue Light Special” are both short, acoustic-based ditties, with notably worse production than most of the tracks. Just when the songs seem to find some cohesiveness, they end. Fff contribute an untitled track that is simply three minutes of wobbling noise.
The rest of the tracks on here range in quality, though I have pointed out the best and the worst. I could go on and describe Deckard’s and Skinner Pilot’s quality tracks, or Horse Got Cable’s and Fear of Nein’s lackluster performances, but the trend is already established. This compilation is a smattering of 90’s emo, and is an objective representation of the scene, showing both the good and bad. It is important to pick up and hear for a fanatic of the genre, simply because of its historical significance.