The Promise Ring: revisiting "emo"

Back in my day, this is what we called "Emo"...

There’s a scene in High Fidelity where Dick (Todd Louiso) is questioning Rob (John Cusack) about how he’s organizing his record collection. It wasn’t chronological and it wasn’t alphabetical; it was autobiographical. Each and everyone of us could probably organize our record collections autobiographically if we really thought about it, and it would probably tell us a lot about ourselves.

Most of our autobiographical collections would probably start with Green Day or Nirvana (or, uh, maybe even No Doubt) and end God-knows-where. But from our current tastes back to our first bites, I’m sure there are plenty of bands that don’t deserve a revisitation. I know for a fact that my Oasis albums from 6th grade haven’t seen the light of day in almost 15 years. It is always a pleasant surprise, however, when you revisit and old album, and like an old friend, you find that you still understand each other.

  • Back in my day, this is what we called "Emo"...

My most recent revisitation has been with The Promise Ring, and boy, do they still sound good. Formed in 1995 by then Cap’n Jazz guitarist Davey von Bohlen, TPR was pigeonholed in the burgeoning “emo” genre. Judging from what is being called “emo” today, I would assume that TPR would now fall under the “Indie Rock” or “Indie Pop” mantels along with other former “emos” Weezer and The Get Up Kids.

While I was initially hooked on the band’s rarities collection The Horse Lattitudes, their album that meant the most to me was 1999’s Very Emergency. This album marked a total emersion into pop music for the band. “Happiness Is All The Rage”, the opening track, is alone worth the price of the record. The “emo” sound still shines through on a few songs (like the sullen “Things Just Getting Good”), but for the most part, Very Emergency is just a solid pop record.

The Promise Ring - "Happiness Is All The Rage"

I had the opportunity to see TPR just months before the broke up on 2002. The played right after Poison The Well. It was an odd show to say the least, but I’m just glad that I got to see them. I’m sure few people are talking about TPR much these days, but they, along with other Cap’n Jazz alums, American Football and Joan of Arc are definitely deserving of a revisitation. It is also worth mentioning that local label, Joyful Noise, will soon be re-releasing Joan of Arc’s entire discography...on cassette. Also, I recommend going back and playing the “Emo Game” and having a good laugh at how much things have changed.

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