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This article is only halfway serious, so if you're bummed, stop emailing me already.
Emo Philips, spun comic with bizarre penchant for proto-mod/indie fashion.. origin unknown.. guested on episode of Miami Vice alongside Phil Collins in mid 80s. "E = MO^2" record being the only audio token of the era.
First Wave Emo / EmoCore:
Rites Of Spring , Embrace, et al. DC. Lots of East Coast kids in rock bands who drank soft drinks and made sure punkers who threw shoes on stage during the show got them back safe and sound. Sulking in a rock context is therefore invented.
Second Wave Emo / EmoCore:
Nation of Ulysses, early Unrest. DC, expanding into other eastern US cities. Moss Icon, Cap'n Jazz. Basically the kids that were freshmen in high school while the First Wavers were about to graduate. Emphasis on tributes to soul figures, extreme protest methods, and jazz record labels, while making music with no connection to any of the above. Inside jokes about The Ice Cream Shoppe and other DC landmarks encouraged. Set the stage for neo-indie-pseudo-soul bands that all pretty much sound like that early Can record "Can Delay 1968".
Lync, Mukilteo Fairies, Unwound. Northwest US. Cigarettes. Lots of them. Calvin Johnson screwed my girlfriend this week. Grrrrrr. Jocks and lumberjacks suck. Satan destroy them. "Oh yeah? I'll show *you* sulking."
San Diego Screamo:
Antioch Arrow, Heroin, Clikitat Ikatowi, Swing Kids, The Locust. Lots of kids with greasy short black Romulan hair, with shiny black pants, white work shirts, and no butts... very sick of having to drive 2 hours north to see any good show because of no all ages clubs in area. Anger Anger. Handing out poetry with plagiarized Cure and Public Image Limited lyrics at shows a plus. Sets new record for speedy breakup-recombine-and-regroup times within a rock scene.
Santa Cruz Emo:
Nuzzle. Lots of beeer, Fisticuffs Bluff et al. We got our own scene, kid. I'm borrowing my parent's beamer. Let's drive to the Chevron in Salinas and have a corn dog.
Nouveau Suburban Straight Edge Emo:
Very new Crate half stacks. Sixteen year-old girlfriend sincerely wearing a brand new tie-dye Zep t-shirt. Very well kept hair and clothes, almost hardcore gangster in their appearance. But these are sweet sincere, clean cut kids, just trying to break out of the hypocrisy of American life, man. Baggie jeans, brand new sketchers... sound like Slayer.
Become an experimental film student, or start a free jazzband, or just keep doing temp work and getting stoned with members of Crackerbash, or complain how the rain is the *only* thing that makes you happy.
Emo According to Rolling Stone or Spin:
Sunny Day Real Estate. Promise Ring, Jejune, Texas Is The Reason, etc. Dashboard Confessional. Basically, alternative grunge rock but the songs are slower and longer. Acoustic guitars are cool now, dontcha know. Emphasis on REO Speedwagon influences, fluorescent skating company t-shirts, and pants pocket wallet chains. Gap ads.
Emo 2004 to 2008 The Really Terrible Years:
Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Panic at the Disco. Name your four piece band Alkaline Trio. Fashion that looks like it's unimportant is the most important thing. You just don't understand me. I wear eye make up because you don't. I'm different. Musical style covers the gamut of rock styles from the last 30 years. Just pick something and yeah, those are your "influences." Has nothing to do with anything related to Revolution Summer of '85. Terrible. Did I say terrible? I meant great.