by Ryan Wasoba
Valentine's Day has come again, meaning you are either celebrating your love life or hating on those who are. The holiday's backlash is the perfect vehicle for emo, the genre that strives on tragedy and melodrama. Here are the six most overwrought emo songs about Valentine's Day. If you have additions to this list, please engrave them on a candy heart, take a picture of yourself holding said heart in the mirror (make sure camera/phone is visible), upload it to your Friendster profile and and link the image in our comments.
6. Thursday "Cross Out The Eyes" It's not the first screamo band, or the most popular screamo band, but Thursday might have been the first popular screamo band. If At The Drive-In counts, then Thursday is the first popular screamo band whose most successful record dropped on an independent label -- even though Thursday subsequently signed to Island. Yes, these distinctions are important. "Cross Out The Eyes" is the heaviest of the tracks on the band's landmark Full Collapse, thanks to guest shouts from Thomas Schlatter of cred band the Assistant. Like many songs on Full Collapse and the innumerable bands who started in the album's wake, "Cross Out The Eyes" is full of flowery language and violent imagery. The dire irony of "the mourning dove gets caught in the telephone wire" is enough fuel for a February 14 mope-fest, but singer Geoff Rickey really takes it there: "Drain the blood from this valentine." It's all a set up for a love note about blue skies and smoke and wings of doves -- the same birds that got caught in the phone lines? That would just be terrible.
5. Vendetta Red - "Three Chord Valentine" Vendetta Red was a Seattle power pop emo band along the lines of Hot Rod Circuit and Ultimate Fakebook with a few sassy, Blood Brothers-ish screams for good measure. It was a band perpetually on the cusp of breakthrough, but never crossed the threshold -- unless you count a support slot with Dashboard Confessional. "Three Chord Valentine" was a quasi hit for the band, in that it appeared on two different releases. It's standard major chord fare -- really, there are four chords in this song, but Vendetta Red wasn't very "mathy" -- and the sugar coating masks its graphic lyrics. Slit wrists, corpses covered in moss, vomiting, syringes to the neck. Remember the viral videos of TV news exposes on the dangers of emo? Vendetta Red took these dangers, shoved them in a heart-shaped box and tied a bow around them.
Chicago's Sig Transit Gloria sounded like the Get Up Kids. This was the band's selling point and its crux. Specifically, the band sounded like TGUK's Four Minute Mile record with the keyboards from its Something To Write Home About, which means it sounded like the Kids' Red Letter Day EP. These distinctions are also important. The band also had to deal with Brand New borrowing the same phrase from Rushmore on its best song "Sic Transit Gloria (Glory Fades)," albeit with different spelling. One of STG's best tracks was "Chapter One (Please Die, Valentine)," which appeared on a Red Line Distribution compilation before popping up again on a rarities collection that the band released in 2011 with no regard to the concept of supply and demand. Its chorus is hilariously cliche in hindsight: "Please die, valentine. That little red sweater I bought you for Christmas." That's two holidays in one hook. Beat that, Lawrence, Kansas!
2. The Get Up Kids - Valentine Emo's first group of poster boys, the Get Up Kids wrote songs for guys who went off to college and their younger girlfriends still in high school. Granted, these came from the perspective of guys who were on tour and their (probably) younger girlfriends were still at home. The open-ended sentiment of longing and geography permeated songs like "Central Standard Time" and "Holiday" and the classic "Valentine." "Would you be my valentine if I'm a world away?" Matt Pryor asks, disoriented because "Constants aren't so constant anymore." It's one of the band's first slow jams that felt deliberate, as opposed to the "oh crap, we need a slow song on this record" tracks on Four Minute Mile. Sony should have sold cassettes that had this song on them and then 86 minutes of blank space for the rest of the mixtape. It would have saved a lot of us some time.
1. Alkaline Trio - Enjoy Your Day Before becoming a gothic pop band, Alkaline Trio played schizophrenic punk songs about loneliness and booze. The band who inspired a million heart-with-skull tattoos had a knack for casually sliding heartbreaking phrases into its songs, like "I would give anything to erase the past nine years of my life" or "Even Christ himself would cringe at the sight of your scars." There are many reasons "Enjoy Your Day," the closer from the band's classic debut Goddammit is out of place. It's the only acoustic guitar track, and it's one of few that feature vocals from bassist Dan Andriano rather than guitarist Matt Skiba. It's also the most blatantly depressing song in the band's catalog. "So happy Valentine's day. I hope the sun's out in New York. I hope he bought you roses," Dan sings before milking it. "III HOOOOPE HE BOUGHT YOU ROOOOOSSSSESSSS." This is after he's "Crying on the floor / My tears seep through the crack under my door." Wow. It makes Dashboard look like Dylan. Perhaps most odd about this song is that it sounds like Dan Adriano is physically holding his tongue while he sings, sort of like that prank where you tell somebody to say "I was born on a pirate ship." I'll defend Alkaline Trio; the band was hugely important, especially as a gateway into independent rock music. But if I was tied to a chair in a burning building and the only way out was to say in honesty that "Enjoy Your Day" is not a sappy failure of a song, then maybe I'll catch fire.