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October 8, 2008

Book Notes - Eric Grubbs ("POST")

Music blogger Eric Grubbs (founder of Theme Park Experience) has published a book, POST: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore-1985-2007. The book is already earning comparisons to Michael Azerrad's essential Our Band Could Be Your Life.

The Dallas Observer wrote of the book:

"The emo-centric tome, takes a surprisingly serious look at a genre most audiophiles scoff at, breaking down its chapters by focusing on the legacies of various labels and influential genre acts: Dischord Records, Jawbox, Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbreaker, Braid, The Promise Ring, Hot Water Music, The Get Up Kids, At the Drive-In, Jimmy Eat World."

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books.

Theme Park Experience

In his own words, here is Eric Grubbs' Book Notes essay for his book, POST: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore-1985-2007:

“8” by Sunny Day Real Estate

In summer 1995, this song was tucked away at the end of the Batman Forever soundtrack. Yes, this song is also on Sunny Day Real Estate’s second album, LP2, but the placement of the song on the soundtrack was crucial for me. This was the song that introduced me to the band, and by default, what the mainstream would view as emo in years to come.

My interest in hearing this song was simple: the Foo Fighters had released their debut album around the same time, and every article written about the band mentioned Sunny Day Real Estate. Though Dave Grohl played all of the instruments on the record, he recruited Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith from SDRE to play in his live touring band. I was curious to hear what SDRE sounded like, so when I noticed that my friend Eric had a copy of the soundtrack, I asked him to play “8” for me.

“8” really impressed me as it was not a typical song compared to what I heard on the radio. The dynamics from quiet to loud were much more spontaneous than the predictable alt-grunge of the day. This was more driving and intense than anything I had ever heard before. Plus, I liked how the melodies were melancholy but not super-sad.

“Mirrorful” by Jawbox

People I know have differing opinions on when 120 Minutes was at its best. For me, the pinnacle was when Matt Pinfield hosted. Here was this portly bald guy with a frog in his throat and an undying passion for music. He knew his music trivia but didn’t come across as an arrogant bastard in the process. I loved his approach and I tried to watch the show every week.

I had read about Jawbox before, but after seeing the “Mirrorful” video on 120 Minutes, I was sold on them. At the very least, I wanted to check out the album that the song came from. This struck me as a menacing rock song that wasn’t hokey. From the opening riff on, I still get chills whenever I hear this song.

In the liner notes of Jawbox, there was a band e-mail address listed. Keep in mind this was ’96, a time when e-mail was not everywhere, but was about to be. Since I wanted to share my enjoyment of the band’s music with the band, I sent them a letter. J. Robbins responded with a very sincere response. Being the curious person that I am, I would proceed to e-mail him, along with band members Kim Coletta and Bill Barbot, frequently and ask them lots of questions. When I got the idea to write Post, they were one of the first few people I got in touch with. They remembered me and were incredibly supportive from the start.

“New Religion” (Duran Duran cover) by Jimmy Eat World

When I was a freshman in college, I kept hearing the word, “emo.” I wanted to know what it meant to be an emo band, so I asked a couple of friends of mine who were really into pop-punk. They responded with moans and groans while describing a sound that was jazzy, anti-climactic, and tear-inducing for its fans. I had seen blink-182 talk up Jimmy Eat World as an emo band on 120 Minutes, so I asked my friends if they were emo. They said yes.

Despite what my friends said, I wanted to hear this supposedly anti-climactic, tear-shedding music. A big ska-punk fan at the time, I had a copy of the Duran Duran tribute album that Mojo put out because Goldfinger, Less Than Jake, and Reel Big Fish were on it. Found towards the end of this album was Jimmy Eat World’s cover of “New Religion.” I listened to it, and while it had all the earmarks of what my friends described as emo, I loved what I heard. The use of hushed dynamics meeting with a loud and bending bridge reminded me of certain songs by the Smashing Pumpkins (especially “Soma”). Jimmy Eat World’s Static Prevails was in my CD collection a short time later.

“Why Did We Ever Meet?” by the Promise Ring

Back in ’98, Vagrant Records was better known as the label that released the Before You Were Punk compilation. As a huge face to face fan (and still am), I was set on finding all of their non-LP material. Vagrant had released a couple of one-offs with face to face and one of them (the face to face LIVE record) came with a paper fold-out catalog. Promoting an upcoming release by a band called Boxer as “shades of Lifetime and the Promise Ring,” I was curious about these two band names. They weren’t making me think of hardcore straight edge bands or goofy pop-punk bands, so I was curious about their music.

120 Minutes would air the Promise Ring’s video for “Why Did We Ever Meet?” only twice, but I had to get their record after I heard the song only once. Talking with one of the two friends of mine that hated emo but loved pop-punk, he asked me if I really liked these bands. I said yes without any guilt.

The funny post-script is that about a year later, I ran into the other pop-punk friend and he told me how much he loved the Get Up Kids.

“Little League” by Cap’n Jazz

Back before MP3 file-sharing made almost any song obtainable, I had to really piece together information via 30-second, shitty-sounding Real Audio clips. Jade Tree had a sample of this song by Cap’n Jazz, and those thirty seconds were enough for me to order the album. Even punchier than the Promise Ring, Cap’n Jazz (who featured a future member of the Promise Ring at one point) was the beginning of me understanding this so-called genre of post-hardcore.

“It’s Hard to Know” by Hot Water Music

Throughout college, I found myself being a loner with liking this style of music. The people I worked with at my college radio station could handle the Get Up Kids and the Promise Ring, but that was the extent. I felt this music was really personal even though it was starting to become popular with a mainstream crowd. The shows were getting bigger and new records sold more than their predecessors, but the music kept meaning something to me. More than any pop-punk, indie rock, Britpop, or metalish hardcore did.

With Hot Water Music, I didn’t care for No Division at first. When I saw them with AFI and Sick of It All, I got what these guys were about. They played their hearts out like this was their last show. I came to find out this was the way they always played. Since nobody else wanted the radio station’s copy of No Division, I figured I’d take it and listen to it some more.

In the following years, this record has kept getting better. In regards to this song, the line, “live your heart and never follow,” is a way of life for me. Notice there are no political undertones, specific religious teachings, or lifestyle choices here. This is just straight-up, open-ended, sage-like advice. No matter how old I am or how many times I’ve heard this song, I always get a strong sense of life out of this.

“Hain’s Point” by Rites of Spring

A major theme in Post is the transition period between childhood and adulthood. Growing up, I thought the transition was going to be brief and relatively painless. Well, the transition has not been like this. This Rites of Spring song hits the feeling dead-on with the opening line of “I read somewhere that every wall’s a door to something new, well if that’s true – why can’t I get through?”

Can I Say by Dag Nasty

I credit the great, underappreciated Tempe-by-way-of-Chicago band Horace Pinker for introducing me to Dag Nasty. Horace Pinker covered “One to Two” for a compilation and was curious about the original. I heard raves about Can I Say, so I picked it up when I was a freshman in college. I wouldn’t say I was immediately taken with it, but it wasn’t until I was out of college that I really “got” the record. Dealing with post-adolescent angst in an understandable way with tight drumming, wicked guitar leads, and powerful singing, Can I Say just keeps getting better with age.

Red Animal War

Over the years, I had read about people that were blown away by a band and did whatever they could to help the band out. I always wondered what would compel them to do such. Well, when the magnetism happened to me, I could now relate.

Red Animal War was a local band that started in Grand Prairie and moved to Dallas. I had met Justin, their singer/guitarist, at a Burning Airlines show as we were both trying to talk to J. Robbins at the same time. I didn’t know he played in a band, but he looked rather familiar when I saw pictures of Red Animal War. When I saw the band play live later that year in Denton, my mind was blown. Plus, I felt a draw that I had never felt before or have ever since. I wondered how can I help this band.

I can’t truly pinpoint what with what, but let me just say that Red Animal War had all sorts of great things going for them. They were intense like a hardcore band, but they were mathy and poppy at the same time. They were violent and beautiful at once, and I was so moved by what I saw. I had a radio show at the time and invited them onto my show that night.

After that, I saw Red Animal War play at least forty times. I think what’s been most inspiring about these guys is that they are determined, yet laid back people. They are serious, but they aren’t jerks. They are some of the most real, human, and inspiring people I’ve ever known.

Eric Grubbs and POST: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore-1985-2007 links:

the author's music blog
the book's MySpace page

Dallas Observer review

also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
directors and actors discuss their film's soundtracks
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2008 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)

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