Rock Sub-Genres for Dummies: 'Emo'

The late, great Sunny Day Real Estate. Photo: Heather Maceachem

is short for emocore, a contraction of emotional hardcore. The idea behind it was to combine aggresive music (hardcore) with soaring, anthemic melodies and introspective, well-written lyrics (hence the emotional part). Seattle's Sunny Day Real Estate (1992-95, reformed in 97, broke up in 2001) best defines the term and is, for many, the sub-genre's most important band.

Like punk, emo became a big deal in recent times. But something funny happened on the way to the bank: Imagine if the history of rock music--particularly punk--were revised and rewritten, with The Ramones and The Sex Pistols excised from the canon and replaced with Blink 182 instead. This is the paralell that can be drawn to current emo. SDRE is not even mentioned these days, while third rate, watered-down posers get to be pseudo avatars. You could say that emo went form being The Cure-on-steroids to Air Supply with distorted-guitars, spiky hairdos, and some of the whiniest, lamest lyrical content heard in recent times.