[16 December 2003]
Emo. Never has a term been used so broadly and freely to describe music. Once associated with the heart-tugging pop-punk of bands like the Promise Ring, emo now encompasses everything from singer-songwriter fare to harder edged punk rock. As long as there is (in most cases) a male vocalist putting his heart on his sleeve, that ever flexible three-letter word will be clearly affixed to the music.
Miami-based Glasseater are, for lack of a better word, emo. Employing chugging hardcore punk guitars and coupling them with easy to digest vocals, Glasseater’s cleanly scrubbed look is ready for Spin magazine covers and MTV2 airplay. Their fourth full length,Everything is Beautiful When You Don’t Look Down, is a thoroughly unremarkable affair that fails to separate itself from the rest of the dyed black hair, sensitive boy hard rock that populates the Victory Records label it’s been released on.
With ten tracks, breezed through in just over a half-hour, there is nothing musically memorable and lyrically, the band covers terrain such as communication, love, and fear with a detached blandness. The production by James Wisner (Dashboard Confessional, New Found Glory) is better suited for a Bon Jovi album, and keeps the chugging guitars clean and the earnest vocals pushed way up, making the music non-threatening and ready for radio play. There is nothing wrong with radio ready rock, but a band with a name like Glasseater, and an image that attracts suburban, tattooed punk rock kids, there is an expectation of something with a harder edge than what is presented here.
Track titles “Art of Communication”, “Falling Apart”, “At Your Risk” and “To Feel Adored” are indicative of their subject matter, and are musically interchangeable. Energetic though uninventive guitars propel the song, as heartfelt vocals carry the melody with a gooey intensity. Occasionally, Glasseater will change things up by using the dual singer, sing/scream delivery that has become popular of late.
Lyrically, the band addresses issues that one tends to thing about in the midst of high school age depression. Whether it’s love (“It’s not your fault / I dream of days / When I can wake up to you / To be held in your arms”), the state of the world (“Our world is a strange place / Escape this mental prison / Encompassed by bright lights ‘fast life’ / Giant-like buildings leaving their / Shadows to cover up / The true way of life”) or communication (We haven’t been able to learn from / Our mistakes the years go by / And we still destroy ourselves / I’ll be the better person here / Let’s put the past behind us now”), the lyrics seem to have been ripped from the Cliché Handbook of Sensitive Punk Rock.
This review may seem unreasonably harsh, but it’s hard to get excited about anything so ordinary. With punk rock thoroughly co-opted by the major labels, it has become much harder for bands within the genre to remain relevant, let alone innovative. Punk has become as much Pink and Avril Lavigne as Fugazi and Sleater-Kinney. Earlier this year the Blood Brothers released Burn, Piano Island Burn on the major label-run ArtistDirect. The album was a wake up call to bands like Glasseater. Blazing, fierce and clever, Burn, Piano Island Burn dropped jaws among music critics and the punk rock community alike. Though not gaining the success or recognition they deserved, the Blood Brothers raised the bar, much like Converge’s masterful Jane Doe had a year earlier.
It would hardly surprise me if Glasseater became hugely successful, as their sound and image are primed for the spotlight. However, anyone looking for truly interesting hardcore punk should seek out this year’s releases by the Locust, Blood Brothers, and even the Ex Models for a more rewarding experience.