It finally happened. Indie has broke into the mainstream, mainly due to the popularity of Chris Carraba's Dashboard Confessional (which, of course, defied my prediction in an earlier review), The Strokes, and, more recently, The White Stripes and The Hives. The sub-genre of emo has been featured in Spin, Rolling Stone, and has become a buzzword on MTV. Droves of kids are now slipping on ratty sweaters, donning thick-framed glasses, and weeping at the stars. Mix tapes have replaced love notes.
So where is The Gloria Record? Mineral (the original band of The Gloria Record's Chris Simpson and Jeremy Gomez) enjoyed a bit of short-lived fame underground during the late '90s. The band had only been together for four years, and only released two full-length albums, yet their influence on indie rock is still felt today. But The Gloria Record is nowhere to be found in the current exploitation of "indie".
The band continues the emotional composition and personal confessions of Mineral, breaking them down to their organic roots creating a sound that is completely unique. Start Here is the band's first full-length, preceded by the two equally amazing EPs Lull in Traffic and The Gloria Record.
Where their earlier works were true emotional explorations -- singer Chris Simpson's heart fully on sleeve -- The Gloria Record abandons their emo roots for an indie rock growl in Start Here. Yet, only the music has changed. Simpson still retains his intense tenor, singing each word with a passion unmatched by the competition.
Dashboard Confessional describes screaming infidelities and unnoticed breaths. The Gloria Record focuses on movie theatres and vehicular homicide. Dashboard Confessional laments the loss of a lover, finding her hair and presence everywhere. The Gloria Record explores the experience of viewing a movie in "Cinema Air", Chris Simpson singing: "And the way the sun feels / when you step out in it / after the credits / float back to your car / un-cinemaesque / please tell the whole world I am here / here to be their hero / with the perfect body / and straight teeth / and strings swell every time I bleed."
"I Was Born in Omaha" describes the events after the birth of a child, from the child's point of view: "Drinking in the warm air / and breathing through the tubes / as our lovers filled the room with conversation." Emo's poster boy, Chris Carraba of Dashboard Confessional, loses lovers -- lovers sharing his bed -- constructing music out of the pain and loss felt when these "creatures" are gone. The Gloria Record's lovers are non-sexual, existing purely within memory, created less as "creatures" to be missed and more as experiences present in every facet of life. Every theme explored in Start Here is described in past tense, a melancholy reflection of a reality defined only by memory.
Unlike their peers, The Gloria Record explore mundane universal events -- the feeling of leaving a dark movie theatre, driving into Providence as the sun breaks the horizon, a birth -- creating meaning out of these events by making them subjective experiences. Dashboard Confessional sings of infidelities and losing a lover, subjective experiences become universal objectives. The Gloria Record abandons emo's need to purge inner subjectivity, instead replacing it with the universal. And, through the universal, subjective meaning is derived. The result is the 10 amazing songs of Start Here.
So, I will return to my original question: where is The Gloria Record in today's indie-themed radio? The funny thing about independent music is that, eventually, it is defeatist. Bands avoid commodification by the mainstream in order to create better music. However, through this avoidance, bands typically don't have the money to continue their music. They usually break up, the members scattering to side projects or forming new bands. When an indie band does breakthrough into the mainstream they're labeled "sell-outs", losing their initial fan-base and cursed with the MTV popularity stigma.
However, some bands find the balance. Some bands retain the quality of music while remaining mainstream. R.E.M., The Violent Femmes, David Byrne, et al all became extremely popular yet continued to produce amazing and new music. Personally, I believe The Gloria Record would fit in nicely.