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The Year Emo Sank

by Erik Swedlund

What the heck happened in 1999? Near the end of 1998, it seemed emo music was on its way to superstardom on the radio, ready to enjoy its few months as the latest sound du juor. Emo was the logical next step of underground music to hit mainstream. Sure, sure, it wouldn't last--look at its progenitors. All the previous independent music genres to hit big died within a few months, a year tops: swing revitalism, 3rd-wave ska, punk, neopunk, postpunk, pop-punk. (Of course, ska didn't stand a chance. Leading the way was No Doubt. No Doubt? Ska?)

So why didn't emo rocket up the charts? Why did MTV suddenly name 1999 "The Return of Rock"? And where the hell did all those cute boy bands come from all of a sudden?

I suppose emo lacked a leading band committed to raising the whole genre to public attention. In all the other cases, the genre had a band willing to declare itself a shining example of the genre and encourage people to check out other bands like them. No Doubt, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (after the Squirrel Nut Zippers backed out), Green Day. These bands made the average Joe aware of many other bands, and made the music industry A&R guys run around like crazy trying to sign anyone they could find.

It's a tough job, though, to be the leader in today's music industry. Not only do you face obscurity after a few months, but as the leader, you get watched much more closely. All of your fans who liked you when you were small, it turns out, liked the fact that you were small. You constantly get criticized for "selling out," and also you have to deal with millions of screaming, mindless teenagers whose favorite bands are you and the Backstreet Boys (luckily, only for a few months).

Where the hell did all those cute boy bands come from all of a sudden?
Artist Info from www.mp3.com
Artist description
Nerd-rock!...original blend of indie rock, emo-core, and a slighttouch of ska. Creative sound w/ emotional lyrics, catchy hooks,and powerful guitars. Happiness-sadness, love-hate.Songs about feelings, friends, fun, and thoughts allwith a hard edge.
Music style:
=Nerd Rock=
Musical influences:
Weezer, the Rentals, J Church, the Impossibles, Animal Chin
Similar Artists:
Weezer, the Rentals, J Church, the Impossibles, Animal Chin, MU330
Artist history:
Fullerton formed in January 1999.Web presence established in February 1999.First live performance, May 1999.Five song EP recorded in June 1999.to be continued...
Group members:
Randy, Bobby, Jacob, Scott
Two Guitars, A Bass Guitar, A totally freakin awesome drumset, and tons of Wires that are in a giant knot.
Self Released EP: Fullerton 5
Press reviews:
Read Rolling Stone, Guitar Player, Florida Jam, Ink 19, and other popular magazines. Not that we are in them, but we could be!
Additional info:
Hi Mommy!
Daytona Beach, FL

And emo's leader was not up to it. The Promise Ring was the acknowledged front runner for emo awareness. They declined. In interviews, they said they didn't want to be know as an emo band, that they weren't an emo band, that they didn't want to be put on the emo bandwagon. And that's fine for them. Being the leader means sacrificing some artistic integrity, and it's not for everyone. So they can continue calling themselves Christian indie-pop savants, and everyone else will keep calling them emo, and everyone is happy.

Emo's other possible leader, the Champaign, IL, band Braid, broke up. Plus, they were headed a different direction, actually being indie-pop savants.

Perhaps it's better, though. Since emo didn't hit mainstream awareness, maybe it will stick around as a viable independent genre. That way, we can all still listen to it without the taint of big music. We can all have our favorite little bands, the ones that are hard to find, that no one's ever heard of, the bands that will never sell out. Which leads me to


I was pointed to this band's site on mp3.com by a Too Many Colors reader. I listened to some clips on RealAudio. I downloaded the five songs. It made me smile again.

Fullerton describes themselves as nerd rock, a label that I've heard before, but not very often. I would call The Rentals nerd rock. Other labels that people throw around include math rock, power pop, and post-pop-punk. My favorite? Indie-rock darlings.

How you label a band never really matters. Or maybe it does. I haven't decided.

Fullerton's songs are snappy little nuggets. I can imagine, from the lines that form in my small Illinois town for emo shows, what the mob scene must be like in Daytona Beach when Fullerton plays. And, always, the question of what to wear. What the hell, I say. Dress like a freak. Some people will, and some won't, but no one looks down on you either way.

"Wednesday" is the best song of the bunch, a shining example of pop craftmanship, with staccato verses and melodic chorus. I am literally bouncing while I listen to the energy in this song. "Am I Wrong" is almost as good, with a great sing-along chorus and a ska hook. Both of these songs are also available in live versions, a little faster and with acceptable recording quality.

The only clunker of the bunch is "Battery." Not that it's bad, just not as good as the other two. It has some heavier riffs that don't really fit, and it grates a bit, in my opinion.

Could Fullerton lead the emo revolution? Possibly, after some time together. Should they? Some people never want a band to go big, considering them their band. I, for one, think it would be nice for a small band to actually make some money and get recognition for their efforts, but I'm happy just to have found them.

Indie bands keep the music world fresh. Whether or not they get big, I just wish the big five music labels didn't have such control over the airwaves, throwing genres at us seemingly on a whim. And when will the damn cute boy bands finally rot in hell?

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