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ThreadBear – Fine By Me

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, Oct 1, 2019.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    There’s not much of a tradition of emo in the UK. In the 90s, emo developed so geographically that the generally-used term for it is ‘Midwest emo,’ since its sound was incubated by bands like Cap’n Jazz from Illinois, The Promise Ring from Wisconsin, The Get Up Kids from Missouri. That’s not to say that that scene was by any means insular; Texas is the Reason from New York, Jimmy Eat World from Arizona and Mineral from Texas all had distinctly ‘Midwestern’ sounds, and the forebearers of any one of those bands were Sunny Day Real Estate from Washington state and Jawbreaker from California. Plus, none of it would have happened without the Revolution Summer bands from DC, most notably Embrace and Rites of Spring, and perhaps, more importantly, Fugazi which sprung from both of them. Cross-country touring, plus zines and demo exchanges, meant that emo was pretty effectively shared across every corner of the States. Many of those bands did tour the UK too – Braid and The Get Up Kids went over there together in 1998 – but it seemingly wasn’t enough to imprint on the UK its own parallel scene, at least not one that made enough of an impact to enter the canon of emo as we talk about it twenty years on.

    What we have now is ‘fourth-wave’ emo (also known as emo revival), a spiritual continuation of that Midwestern scene, with the difference being that this one was and is built heavily around Bandcamp, Twitter, and online blogs like PropertyOfZack, The Alternative and, yeah, Since house shows and local community amongst bands are still key to DIY, it didn’t bring about a total eradication of geography – ask anyone about the Philadelphia scene, for example – but it does mean that now there’s no ocean for music to travel, bands that emulate the 90s Midwestern sound can pop up anywhere.

    For ThreadBear, ‘anywhere’ is Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, north-eastern England. Fine By Me, their debut full-length, was released in April this year. Just as Midwest emo thrived in the monotony and dreariness of its cornfield surroundings, it’s worth assuming that northern England provides much the same in its grey skies; a combination of frustration and boredom that drives young bands to both the emotion you hear in the songs and forming a band as an outlet.

    This is to say two things; first, that Fine By Me is quintessentially emo. Twinkly riffs, quiet-to-explosive dynamics, transparent and dramatic lyricism. This is not a bad thing, nor do I think it’s an accident; it’s a firm and absolute entry to the genre, which is really a key facet of fourth-wave emo. Partly because any band drawing from ‘90s emo as fourth-wave does is drawing from the same maybe dozen core influences, leaving little room for dilution. But mainly because, as the emo revival’s entire purpose is in its reclamation of the term ‘emo’ from the maligned corporate mutation of the genre that we now call third-wave emo, commitment to the word and all of its sonic aesthetics has become a point of pride, something to rally around, which ThreadBear proudly partake in. There’s clear worship of their influences in parts – the opening chords of ‘There’s Always Money In The Banana Stand’ could be straight from Mineral’s The Power of Failing, and the drum intro of ‘You Might Be Sexy Julian, But You Can’t Teach Me Anything About The Liquor’ from Texas Is The Reason’s Do You Know Who You Are?. Plus, the often wordy and pop-culture referencing song titles (the aforementioned as examples) recall prominent revival bands like Marietta and Snowing. You couldn’t discuss Fine By Me without using the term ‘emo,’ try as you might to apply more critically respectable euphemisms like ‘post-hardcore’ or ‘indie rock.’

    Which brings me to the second point: Fine By Me’s real strength, as with any good emo record, is in its genuineness. There’s a reason emo was created in basements by people barely out of their teens. It’s a vehicle for unpretentious, unfettered expression, something that you have to really feel and believe in – anything contrived or corrupted sticks out like a sore thumb on an emo record. On Fine By Me, the heart with which the vocals are delivered and the passion with which the instruments played make for a vital outpouring of emotion, one that feels real. The interlocking screaming at the end of ‘I’m A Bad Friend And I’m Sorry,’ for example, is one of the record’s most powerful moments. There’s a kind of scrappy chaos to the performances too that evokes Cap’n Jazz or early Braid, taking the tumultuous intensity of the lyrics and shaping the songs to match. Those lyrics, it should be said, are sometimes the weaker points of the record – while emo isn’t known for subtlety, lines like ‘If I killed myself would you even think about me?’ can feel a little too on-the-nose. Still, again its saving grace is in its realness, the passion behind it, the feeling that you’re listening to someone say exactly what he means.

    Fine By Me isn’t a record that breaks new territory musically – but then, as a debut effort, that’s not really expected of it. (Funnily enough, it kind of does break new territory geographically, since Newcastle is no hotbed for emo or DIY music.) What it is is a heartening continuation of emo’s lineage that proves the UK is as good a breeding ground as any for the genre. It’s kind of amazing that a scene built initially on pure emotion and passion has survived this long and spread this far, but I suppose that’s precisely because it’s built on such emotion and passion. As long as bands like ThreadBear believe in it so wholeheartedly, it stays alive.

  2. theasteriskera

    Regular Supporter

    This is really well written and really makes me want to check out this album, thank you! I grew up in VA and live in North Jersey now... and really want to know what you mean about the Philly scene & the eradication of geography
  3. slickdtc

    Regular Supporter

    This is really good! Great recommendation and write-up.
  4. TailsTwelve


    Really enjoyed the write up and am going to check these guys out. Although I don't totally agree with your introduction regarding the UK emo scene. Growing up in the midlands in the early 2000s we actually had a pretty healthy underground/small emo scene that had it's own identity, albeit one heavily inspired by the midwest sound that was crossing the Atlantic. Thanks to the web of local gig scenes we got to see exciting bands like My Awesome Compilation, The All New Adventures Of Us (TANAOU), Tellison, Dartz & Meet Me In St Louis. It was a scene that relied on going to local gigs regardless of the bill and websites like Punktastic.

    Down the line the scene began heading in two directions to where we are today with bands in the vein of the Big Scary Monsters roster that lean towards mathy indie rock like TTNG, Johnny Foreigner, Dananananaykroyd & Mimas (actually a Danish band but they get a lot of love back in the UK and need more attention) and then you have the grungier/punkier bands that have perhaps had a better time crossing the Atlantic like Basement, Moose Blood or Nai Harvest.

    Now, one thing from the review I do certainly agree with is that the UK emo scene as it was 15 odd years ago did not make the same impact on the genre that their American contemporaries did and I in no means intend to disrespect this enjoyable review. But I do have to say that the UK emo scene was very healthy, much loved, had a feeling of it's own (it felt very earnest in a way that not a lot of music I was listening to at the time felt) and has steadily evolved to be rather a big deal on the homefront.

    Take care and go listen to some of the bands above.
  5. slickdtc

    Regular Supporter

    I don’t know if it’s the impending season change here or what, but all the recommendations in this post are fucking great off some short preview listens. Saved a bunch of these albums and will have to go through them over the coming days.

    There’s something wonderful about discovering music that’s been out there for years. New to the ears but familiar to the soul.
    Dan O'Neill likes this.
  6. marsupial jones

    make a bagel without the hole

    did not like this at all. very bad vocalist.