Within the broad microcosm that is music whose origins date back to the days of early punk, the genre most often confused and unfairly attached to anything moderately aggressive and remotely emotive is unequivocally, post-hardcore. It’s a genre frequently mistaken for the interception between emo and hardcore, but most accurately described by the definition of its title as it was originally understood in its formative years: Music created by individuals coming out of hardcore in the mid-to late-1980s and more specifically, music redolent of such inclinations that found the punk aggression of hardcore, tempered and melodic.
Formed in the wake of influential hardcore bands Shelter and 108, Texas is the Reason, by definition, embodies the epitome of post-hardcore–arriving on the scene half a decade after the genre’s most celebrated trailblazers, Fugazi, got their start, and just a few years behind Quicksand, one of the first groups to embrace post-hardcore in their local New York City. Now, nearly 20 years since their inception and 15 since their disbandment, the group has reunited to play a string of shows, give their fans a proper farewell and compile their past recordings into one career retrospective package, Do You Know Who You Are? (The Complete Collection). Receiving more praise than ever, and commanding crowds larger than that of their original run, there seems to be no better time than now to look back at the short and illustrious discography of one of post-hardcore’s most beloved bands.
The story goes like this: In 1994, after years of writing and performing in their respective Hare Krishna-inspired hardcore bands, guitarist Norman Arenas and drummer Chris Daly got together to leave the machismo and religious preaching of their former lives behind and experiment with the harsh and predominantly down-beat sounds that were quickly making their way up from Washington D.C.. Incorporating some of the pop elements flourishing within emo, former Fountainhead bassist Scott Winegard and Buffalo-transplant, guitarist/ vocalist Garrett Klahn quickly joined to complete the line-up.
After a year’s worth of trudging through local shows and the Northeastern regional touring circuit, the group finally took time to record their debut release, an eponymous EP with the now-legendary producer Brian McTernan. It was one of McTernan’s first projects and the one most often credited for starting the post-hardcore explosion of the mid-’90s within a younger generation than that of Fugazi’s older fan-base. The three songs that would make-up this EP introduced listeners to Khan’s angular vocal delivery, slightly grated and uniquely nasally vocals, while the instrumentals remained fairly straightforward in construct, yet vitriolic in the driving nature of its upbeat verses and further accelerated choruses. “Dressing Cold” particularly personified this with the noticeable hardcore tendencies of chugging guitar accents, hefty bass lines, and a feedback that resonated throughout the track’s bridge. The EP, concise and free of filler opened doors for the band in ways that only a great release could in these days cut-and-glue zines–years before computers made their way into every middle-class home.
As talk of a full-length album began to spark, and during the same sessions that produced their self-titled EP, Texas is the Reason recorded a fourth track that would go-on to appear as the b-side of a 7-inch split with Samuel, a heavier, albeit lesser known, female-fronted post-hardcore band from Pennsylvania. Titled “Something To Forget (Version I)”, a precursor to “Something To Forget (Version II)” from their forthcoming debut album, the sole track on this split ironically speaks to its title as one of the group’s most forgotten tracks for its exclusivity to this extremely limited run of vinyl, never once repressed by British label, Simba. The song, playing slightly longer than its final version, resembled a live demo that while choppy at times, revealed a fair expectation of what was to come from the group’s next release in the crowded, high density guitar work, juxtaposed with a clear and robust vocal pattern.
For Do You Know Who You Are?, Texas is the Reason’s first and singular full-length album, the band brought on producer J. Robbins (Jawbreaker, Embrace) and the results were nothing short of seminal. In the deliberate and bombastic start to the carefully syncopated opener “Johnny On The Spot”, the slow-burning verses of “Nickel Wound”, and the pummeling rhythm section of “Back And To The Left”, Do You Know Who You Are? provided the band with a near-perfect album for the time, that today serves as a playbook for modern post-hardcore.
Riding on the success of their debut album, the band embarked on extensive touring and released a quick 7-inch split with Midwestern counter-parts, the Promise Ring. This split, compared to their last with Samuel, proved to be the most recognizable for not only the notoriety brought forth by the Promise Ring, but by merit of the mournful “Blue Boy”–so similar in timbre to that of the majority of Do You Know Who You Are? it could have easily come off the record. A solid mid-tempo track, with guitar leads seeped in technicality, and arguably, the group’s farthest foray into emo– also their final recording for nearly a decade, after a hasty break-up ended the band.
For Do You Know Who You Are? (The Complete Collection), the band went back into the studio with J. Robbins to record two songs that for all intents and purposes can be described as “new”, but are truly tracks completed before their untimely break-up. The first of these two is “Every Girl’s Little Dream”, a tight track whose syncopation plays like a band who has been at it for as long as they’ve been apart, and at over six minutes, marks their longest to date. Not only is this also true on “When Rock ‘N’ Roll Was Just A Baby” but it’s a cohesiveness that is magnified as Klahn’s voice takes on a confidence earned with age.
As a whole, Do You Know Who You Are? (The Complete Collection) succeeds in bringing together every piece of recorded material from this clearly revolutionary group, but fails to organize the compilation as anything more of an extension of Do You Know Who You Are?, rather than a compilation. The track listing for one, gives little context to the band’s history in its peculiar sequencing that is not chronological, but oddly begins with the band’s third release–their full-length album–followed by their two newly-recorded songs, before jumping back to their first recording–the self-titled EP– and finally ending with both 7-inch splits, in the order opposite to that of their release. A strange choice for Revelation Records, the label responsible for the bulk of Texas is the Reason’s discography, including this collection, but still a great compilation in spite of the fact. Written throughout the course of a four year tenure, over a decade ago, the songs on this release carry with them an incredible influence that trumps that of the majority of artists with discographies decades deep and rings timely today as it did then; a truly groundbreaking record that arguably altered the course of an entire genre.