I took the kid trick or treating around the neighborhood last Halloween and stopped by the house of one of the managers from work. His kid opened the door and was dressed in black lipstick, eyeliner, and strange clothing. He spoke in this fey voice, gave my kid some candy and we went on to the next house.
On the following day, I approached this manager and told him that we had stopped by and his son seemed to be dressed for the occasion.
The guy asked me was “Emo” was.
“I asked him what he was dressed as and he kept saying ‘I’m Emo. I’m Emo’….What’s Emo?”
I explained that it was a style of music typically enjoyed by kids in the drama club.”
With that description, he seemed to have a better understanding as to what prompted his 14 year old son to dress that way.”
Back when Rites Of Spring released their first and only album, there was no such thing as Emo. Instead, there was a legion of devoted fans that, because of the band’s limited existence, continued to share stories about their legendary live shows and their only recorded document.
I talked to one of those fans in college. I respected his opinion and I never heard him talk about an album with such intensity. He’d seen the shows, he experienced the D.C. devotion firsthand, and now he was encouraging me to pick up Rites of Spring to the point where he was becoming speechless with excitement at just thinking about the record.
What the hell, it’s on Dischord records and they were (at that time) $6 post paid.
On first spin, I didn’t hear it. Guy Picciotto’s voice didn’t have the required masculinity that I thought all hardcore bands should possess. Then I started to listen a little more intently, searching for what made my indie rock contact so enthusiastic.
The words, admittedly not filled with testosterone either, were similar to that emotive (there’s that word) structure that Husker Du opened, thereby enabling hardcore to reach a wider audience. It started to dawn on me that Rites Of Spring, specifically Picciotto’s lyrics, were a little deeper than traditional hardcore fare.
“I have learned sometimes a need can run too deep
And we throw away the things we most wanted to keep”
“And hope is just another rope to hand myself with
To tie myself down ‘til something real comes around”
On top of this, the band was shithot, delivering out complex guitar phrases and breakneck drum patterns that were a step up from hardcore’s traditional three-chord attack. It’s pretty incredible stuff and, despite Picciotto’s thin voice, it kept me coming back.
And the more I listened, the more I appreciated what Rites Of Spring were doing and missed having them around to see where they would go next.
Thankfully, half of the members joined with producer/ex-Minor Threat leader Ian MacKaye to form the equally consistent Fugazi. I suppose if you’re going to implode, you may as well do it with one remarkably awesome debut.