Revival my ass. Sure, there has been a handful of think pieces and reviews lately about the “reemergence” of emo from the type of music journalist who jumps from trend to trend (or hashtag to hashtag) but honestly any fan from the scene already knows that 1. emo never went away (or will go away – just check the AbsolutePunk.net homepage the last ten years) and 2. Florida’s You Blew It! have been cranking out emo-flavored pop-punk jams over the past four-plus years, as the group’s latest album, Keep Doing What You’re Doing, expands on the band’s so-called “1999” sound.
Hell, it was only two years ago we jokingly gave this style of music the absurd moniker “twinkle daddies.” But You Blew It! has emerged from 2012’s Cap’n Jazz-influenced Grow Up, Dude and last winter’s split with Fake Problems louder and bolder with Keep Doing What You’re Doing. Produced by Emo Mayor Evan Weiss, YBI!’s knack for loud, dissonant power chords boom throughout the record without its essential fuzziness being compromised. In fact, the production is very reminiscent of Weiss’ 2011 release, Proper, a record that did a bang-up job of balancing its stripped-down, raw moments with the louder, more frenetic ones while remaining sonically pleasing. “Match & Tinder” is a callused, aggressive opener that twitches between the rough anguish of vocalist Tanner Jones’ rasp and the wistfulness of Andy Anaya’s frantic guitar work. The pop from Timothy Flynn’s relentless snare drum paces “Award of the Year Award”’s driving heaviness as an exasperated Jones yells, “Consider me a friend, but only in the past tense.”
Beneath the gruff exterior of You Blew It’s music is a keen ear for delicious pop hooks and fantastic melodies, something Keep Doing What You’re Doing consistently delivers. “Regional Dialect” is a prime example; its rhythm section of Flynn and Weiss (who played bass on the record) give the song a warm feeling as the guitar tones rev up the loudness. “Strong Island” has the Orlando group channeling the very best of early-00 midwestern emo, a powerful bass-heavy ballad with just enough fringe dissonance. The swelling “House Address” features the album’s most stirring chorus and give listeners flashbacks to the first time they heard Diary, while the rousing pop-punk of “Gray Matter” is pure Northstar worship (even going as far to borrow lines from the band’s classic track, “The Accident Underwater”).
Despite the self-depreciating and unconfident manner of his lyrics, Jones has never sounded more confident and sure-minded. Most, if not all, of his dirty laundry is aired and Jones points the finger not only at some unnamed party but also at himself. There are some absolutely biting moments (“You’ve made the list/of people I’d like to forget” on “Rock Springs”) mixed in with self-loathing (“Award of the Year Award”) and deft introspection (“I’m not sure what I’m blaming you for/but it’s probably too late to make it better.” on “Strong Island”). Despite all that, Jones gains some perspective during the album’s closing, made-for-hockey stadiums anthem “Better to Best,” as the vocalist poignantly ponders, “maybe things aren’t quite as bad/as I let myself believe.” So yeah, he’s still working through some things – emotional conflicts and contradictions being used as catharsis will always be the backbone to these kind of records. But one thing’s for certain and it’s Jones growing into and becoming more comfortable with his voice – both lyrically and vocally.
Emo will always be a genre that fluctuates with popularity (mainly when mainstream writers run out of everything else to write about), but that hasn’t dissuaded some of the best bands of the genre from creating fantastic music. You Blew It! may never “grow up” (dude) from the style of music they write, but Tanner Jones and company will continue to refine and reinterpret what it means to be an emo band in 2014. Keep Doing What You’re Doing is a record indie-rock fans and pop-punk fans can see eye-to-eye on, which is an accomplishment in itself. So even if we still have a few more weeks (months?) on the “#emorevival” train before the mainstream collectively rolls its eyes toward us again, at least it’ll be championing one of the genre’s finest releases.