A Half-Decade Under the Influence: The Best Emo Albums, 2001-2005
Taking Back Sunday at Houston's House of Blues in July 2011
Photo by Matthew Keever
Roughly ten years ago, the emo genre progressed from its underground roots into a calling card for early-'00s rock. And while there's no denying that bands like Rites of Spring and The Promise Ring helped pioneer the sound, the turn of the millennium saw emo transform from into a lifestyle for the decade's misfits, much like New Wave and grunge did for previous generations.
Nowadays, it seems like many might like to forget it ever happened, but the emo subculture of the 2000s was about more than androgynous-looking teenagers with weird haircuts. In fact, the decade actually produced some albums that have managed to stand the test of time, even if that's just nostalgia speaking.
Rocks Off could probably go on a long walk down memory lane, but if we tried to list every modern emo band, we'd be here forever. Instead, we've compiled some of the genre's most important albums, along with a little report card for one of the most polarizing genres in history.
THURSDAY Critical Release: Full Collapse (2001)
Following its release, Full Collapse became one of the first albums to really kick-start modern-day emo. After that, Thursday went on to record five more studio albums before announcing a hiatus following 2011's No Devolución.
Recently, lead singer Geoff Rickley has been in the news after he was robbed at gunpoint in Brooklyn, where he lives. Drummer Tucker Rule, meanwhile, has been working for UK-based boy band, The Wanted.
TAKING BACK SUNDAY Critical Release: Tell All Your Friends (2002) When Tell All Your Friends debuted, Taking Back Sunday was relatively unknown outside of their local scene. But with the little help of the video for their single, "Cute Without the 'E'," a clever spin on 1999 cult film Fight Club, the group grew a large underground following.
The following year, John Nolan (guitar/vocals) and bassist Shaun Cooper left the band to form Straylight Run. Since then, Taking Back Sunday has recorded three albums amid dizzying amounts of lineup changes. In 2010, Nolan and Cooper rejoined the band much to the surprise of fans, and have remained in TBS for the release of their fifth studio album, Taking Back Sunday, and 2012 anniversary tour for Tell All Your Friends. The band is currently recording album No. 6.
THE EARLY NOVEMBER Critical Release: The Room's Too Cold (2003) The Early November are more indie than pop-punk, but still manage to fit our bill. To some, their debut full-length, The Room's Too Cold, is a staple in the emo diet. The Early November took an "indefinite hiatus" shortly after releasing their ambitious three-disc album, The Mother, The Mechanic, The Path in 2006. And despite Ace Enders' solo project, I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody's Business, people still wanted The Early November.
The band reunited in 2011, performed at SXSW 2012, and released their latest album, In Currents, three months later. They are scheduled to perform on this year's Vans Warped Tour. Godspeed.
BRAND NEW Critical Release: Deja Entendu (2003)
Brand New always finds a way to swim against the current of their fellow musicians. Not only are they a rare band in their genre to avoid lineup changes and a breakup/hiatus, they remain exclusive in an industry that sees bands doing anything they can to stay relevant; perhaps that's why Deja Entendu is still regarded as one of the most important albums of the 2000s.
Even so, there's no denying that it's damn good. With singles "The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows" and "Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades," Brand New was able to gain notoriety from their music videos before the art of videos became extinct. Rumors are swirling that album number five is under way. Brand New is set to tour Europe later this summer, plus a few dates scheduled in the Midwest and New York around the time that they will play RiotFest.
THE USED Critical Album: The Used (2002) Somehow, The Used found a way to deliver screamo without asking for your attention. Instead, their self-titled debut demanded it, and it was almost impossible to deny their talent. Since that time, the group has faced hardships -- singer Bert McCracken's girlfriend died during the recording of their second album, while various tours have been cancelled due to McCracken needing surgery on his vocal cords, while one Canadian tour came to a halt due to McCracken's criminal record. (This is rock and roll we're talking about.) Even so, The Used have released four more studio albums, including Vulnerable (II), which was re-released earlier this year as a two-disc set.
MATCHBOOK ROMANCE Critical Album: Stories and Alibis (2003) It was hard to find a compilation in the early 2000s without finding at least one Matchbook Romance song on there. And really, it was for good reason. With singles such as "The Greatest Fall (of All Time)" and "Promise," it was hard to find an emo fan who didn't slap either of those tracks on a mix for a love interest.
Unfortunately, Matchbook Romance only released one other album before throwing in the towel. Though the members have since been working in other projects (most notably in You, Me, and Everyone We Know,) Matchbook Romance is still technically on "hiatus," despite a small number of live performances, including a recent holiday show for Glamour Kills in 2012.
FALL OUT BOY Critical Records: Take This to Your Grave (2003), From Under the Cork Tree (2005) It's hard to pinpoint which Fall Out Boy album was more important to their career, and it really depends on who you ask. Die-hard fans argue that Take This to Your Grave is it; others will say From Under the Cork Tree is more important. It's hard to say.
Regardless, the band went on to record two more albums before announcing a hiatus. During that time, Fall Out Boy members splintered off into various side projects -- The Damned Things and Black Cards -- while lead singer and guitarist Patrick Stump went solo. However, the hiatus didn't last long. Earlier this year, the group announced they would be releasing their new album, Save Rock N' Roll, before embarking on a U.S. tour, which recently stopped in Houston.
MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE Critical Release: Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge (2004) My Chemical Romance were destined to hit it big from the start. Their first record was produced by Thursday front man Geoff Rickley, while their second album, Three Cheers, only solidified how special they were. Even the videos for their singles, "Helena" and "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)," helped define the fashionS surrounding 2000s emo.
My Chemical Romance helped pave the way for other big-production acts in coming years, like Panic! at the Disco. After Three Cheers went platinum, the group went on to record two more studio albums -- The Black Parade and Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. This past March, despite talks of album No. 5, My Chemical Romance announced that they were breaking up after more than a decade together.
SAVES THE DAY Critical Album: Stay What You Are (2002) Of all the bands on this list, Saves the Day has been active the longest. Starting in the early 90s under the name "Selfer," they are the product of a decade that favored pop punk. By the time they released Stay What You Are, they had begun to pull an indie vibe into their already established sound.
Throughout their nearly 20-year career, Saves the Day has recorded seven studio albums, with a new, unnamed album in the works and the band scheduled to hit the road this fall. They aren't set to come to Houston, but with dates in Austin and Dallas, we're hoping the rockers will rectify that and come through.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.