Context is so important and music. And not just historical context – did a record have a particular influence on music? – but also personal context for the listener. If you hear a record at the right time and it speaks to you, it’s going to be a big deal for you, even if it isn’t for others.
So I’ve read things about this record and, unfortunately, I read them while I was listening to it for the firs time. The things I read about the record were written by young people who were listening to this record at an impressionable time of their lives. And so they were impressed. But guys, it’s just another emo record. Moreover, it’s an emo record released in 2000. (I.e. it doesn’t have a lot of historical import.)
So the big thing is Kasher writing about his failing relationship. But he admits that he made up the affair part. That’s fine from a literary perspective – you can and should invent things in order to make art out of reality – but it doesn’t pass much of a smell test in terms of the breakup narrative. It’s a concept album, I’m told, so I’m supposed to think of it a little differently than a “breakup” album. And, yes, he should have that creative freedom but Kasher’s stand in is the victim and his wife – who didn’t have an affair in real life, so we’re told – is the one doing the wronging. Doesn’t anyone have a problem with this? (To be clear: I wouldn’t have had a problem with it if I had found this record at 21 and been receptive to it.
The music is, to my ears, run of the mill emo. The songs are catchy enough, I guess, but you listen to emo for the performances. And those are…well, very emo. Some people think Kasher does a better job of the emo voice than others. I can’t say I’ve listened to enough emo to make that judgment call. To me, he sounds like an emo singer.
My problem with the record – aside from its supposed grand concept of a failing relationship – is that it is just an emo record. I like post hardcore because the music is musically interesting in quirky. I don’t like emo in general because emo is (literally) post hardcore without the quirkiness and ambition. At least some of this has to do with not discovering emo until I was too old to be swayed by its emotional appeal but much of it is just from a fundamental fact of my being: I prefer artistic ambition to the lack of it. And here the only ambition is a vague “concept” of a relationship falling apart. That doesn’t fit my definition of artistic ambition for 2000.
All of this makes it sound like I hate it. I don’t hate it. It’s a perfectly adequate emo record. It might even be better than that. But the hype is ridiculous.