The Emo Philips Diaries
From Tampa to Eternity
First off, the cover is a beautiful thing — a spoof on The Emo Diaries series that Deep Elm released, complete with official press photos of Emo Philips presented in the same design scheme as the series. The joke linking offbeat comedian with offbeat musical style was just waiting to be made, and I’m glad it was made well.
Funny stuff, but the music keeps this from being something to be laughed at briefly and forgotten. Florida has churned out some amazing bands over the years, with Tampa delivering its fair share of them. Whether they burn bright and die out quickly or stick around with us for a while each band has its chest of unreleased songs stashed away in some closet somewhere.
“Yeah, but their best stuff was the last stuff they released, the stuff that didn’t come out… No, I can’t make you a copy, sorry…”
This comp picks up some missing pieces of the Tampa area emo/hardcore/postpunk scene from 1993 onwards. It flows quite nicely despite the range of bands and the span of time in which they were recorded. Scrog and Omega Man are the main bumps in the road, but that’s almost to be expected. I lost the track listing for this right when I got it and thus listened initially without any preconceived notions of which tracks to skip around between. When I finally matched the audio with the track listing I had some nice surprises.
Pseudo Heroes’ self-titled song starts things off on the right foot, a catchy nostalgic song with a quick guitar line that tends to get stuck in my head. Chester follows and it’s nice to hear from them again. They released a two-song seven-inch on New Granada in ’95 and disappeared. “2 Molecules” builds and aches, mixing the right elements of emo and rock. Makes me wonder what else they have sitting around.
Hankshaw’s “Everybody Thinks You’re Great” stays true to form with another bittersweet delight mixing pretty music with acidic lyrics. There’s not much chance to misinterpret a line like “There’s something underneath my shoe/It looks like you.” Biting lyrics delivered with sugarcoated, wonderfully crafted melodic tunefulness.
Vocalist Harold’s earlier effort, Lazy Susan is represented here as well, but “Jehovah Jackson” certainly isn’t the best song I’ve heard from them. It’s nice that they’re on here for history’s sake, but it sounds primitive and dated in the midst of the rest of the songs.
The Dakota Coastline had a self-released CD-R that they took on tour with them that was quite good, but it was another case of “you should hear the unreleased stuff.” Refined and graceful, this song finds them having come into their own better than anything else I’ve heard from them. It soars where it should and breaks from live drumming into looped to nice effect.
The Maccabees are three-fourths of the members of Pohgoh with a fellow from Chester, so it was nice to hear from them after Pohgoh’s break-up. While the vocals are clearly recognizable as Susie’s the music is approached from a more subdued angle. “Homefront” should strike a chord in anyone who’s growing older and involved in more “normal” jobs and family-type activities. It’s a good thing, really.
Pohgoh is on here as well with “Resolution,” one of their best songs that was previously only available on an import seven-inch from Germany’s Heartfelt Records. It’s good to have it here in a less crackly, worn-out version. NewGranada is working on a Pohgoh discography that should be out later this year and collect everything they can fit on a disc.
Susie’s first band Stitch is also represented. This is another curio from the shelves, but one that fares much better than Lazy Susan’s offering.
Closure was a terrific surprise. “Save Your Day” is a great song that fits in the emo-soaked rock arena. ThinkingDayRally’s piano-infused musing pulls at the heartstrings while My Own America’s pop-oriented song didn’t catch me very much.
Tomorrow has been kicking around since 1994, consistently belting out anthemic songs filled with positive, inspirational lyrics somewhat akin to Hot Water Music. Their last line-up seemed the strongest and I was quite disappointed to hear they had broken up. Or are they? Hopefully this break-up will be as temporary as their others. I did see a flyer recently from Independence Day touting a new Tomorrow release. I’m crossing my fingers that this is still happening regardless of their status as a band. Anyhow, “Rally Day” is under a minute and manages to just wet the appetite before it’s gone again. Tricky and cruel.
Scrog was a legendary pummeling, bulldozing force with whiplash vocals that prowled around the area for years. “Speak” was recorded in 1995 and finds them as ugly and spirited as ever.
Everglade played passionate emo-rock that stripped down all the right elements from bands like Helmet and Quicksand and delivered them in a no-nonsense way. From what I understand their stuff’s hard to come by. Hearing this makes me care.
Omega Man lashed out blistering hardcore with paint-stripping guitar lines and great breaks and vocals. They had a lot of energy live and this captures some of it.
Isobella offers a remix of their shoegaze soundwash “Illuminous Insects.” Hazy female vocals waft through guitar textures nicely.
Versailles contributes one of their first songs they ever wrote and recorded, “6/6/96.” A quiet little song with warbling organ ambience and hushed vocals added to the moody guitar line. This doesn’t give much indication of the guitar-dense epics they were to record later, but it’s a nice song nonetheless. Showmen’s Rest’s song is also moody and haunting, but does nothing for me. A joke song about a fruit stand closes things out, credited to The Happy Bagpipers.
While it definitely could have ended on a stronger note, for the most part I’m very pleased with this. It filled in holes from old favorites and gave me some new ones as well. The liner notes are interesting and prove that Tampa’s scene family tree is just as incestuous as anyone else’s. All in all this is a document that is strong enough to where I’ve pulled it out again and again to listen to what’s on it, not just refer to it. And that’s what counts.
NewGranada Records: http://www.newgranada.com