What do you think of when you picture a group of well-mannered boys, some of whom may be crying, clad in
sweaters and horn rimmed glasses? No, not Dead
Poets Society...That's right, emo! Yes, Emo, that powerful yet emotionally
charged brand of pop/punk rock that's quite popular with the kiddies these
days. Well everyone can quit their sobbing -- the Promise Ring are back
with a new album to appease the thronged-yet-weeping masses.
In case you didn't know, Very
Emergency is the Milwaukee quartet's highly anticipated follow-up to 1997's
critically acclaimed Nothing Feels Good.
But fear not, fans -- Very Emergency is not Nothing Feels Good: the Sequel. Rather
than merely sticking to the same tried and true formula, the boys have decided
to shake things up a bit. The songs rock harder, while maintaining
a sweet pop sensibility. The opening one-two punch of "Happiness is all the Rage"
and "Emergency! Emergency!" blasts out of your speakers, simultaneously
hitting you with raging guitars and jarring hooks. Elsewhere, "Skips a Beat (over you)," "Happy Hour" and "Jersey Shore" combine sing-along choruses, racing rhythms and jackhammer riffs to create three minute pop firebombs. Davey VonBohlen's
voice anchors Very Emergency's sound, his scratchy yelp making every note sound
achingly sincere. Manning the boards for a second time is producer J.
Robbins of Jawbox/Burning Airlines fame; it is in part his skill at capturing bands' raw power and underlying emotional fragility that makes Very
Emergency so compelling. My biggest complaint about this record is the
length -- its mere 35 minutes leave you feeling vaguely cheated. But all told, Very Emergency is proof that the Promise Ring are
still one of the most enigmatic and intriguing bands performing today.