Actually, to go by a recent interview by Hayley Williams of the band Paramore, the strangeness of those ker-azy emo kids with their tattoos, self-inflicted scars, widely-broadcast emotional pain and constant desire to find the punkest thing to do in any given situation merely reflects the strangeness of their society generally. I have now concluded, on the basis of this article, that there are many aspects of American culture I am never really going to understand. Miss Williams, who looks a bit like the young Kylie Minogue and sounds from her name as if she should be living on a council estate in deepest West Yorkshire, addresses such weighty issues as her band’s latest album, her punkness and whether she’s like Miley Cyrus. Not really knowing the music of either, I couldn’t comment on the last point, but here is some interesting quotage –
“We get notes like: “Two weeks ago I tried to kill myself, then I heard your song and it made me feel like I don’t have to give up yet.” “ No doubt because of the sunny optimism, hopefulness and general faith in human kindness of Paramore’s oeuvre? Well, not according to the article, which goes on to talk about their “perfect storm of serrated riffs and pain-wracked lyrics.” I suppose some would call it cathartic, although it sounds a bit depressing to me. However, this does raise the question of why on earth, in the richest country on Earth, the Land of the Free, at a time of unprecedented technological progress and prosperity, teenagers are running around trying to kill themselves. OK, (relative) wealth does not guarantee happiness and the US is, of course, undergoing a bad economic recession at the moment. But as I understand it, most emo kids come from relatively prosperous white suburban backgrounds. It’s not as if they’re stuck in ghettoes with no hope and they can’t all be victims of child abuse, bad divorces, homophobia and all those other sources of unhappiness not related to poverty. So why the self-harming and the suicide?
Also, the angst offered in pop music of this kind – the sort aimed at teenagers and performed by people a few years older – usually seems based on relationships, boyfriend/girlfriend break ups and so on. Without wanting to trivialise the unhappiness that this can cause, it’s not really as serious as losing your job, getting divorced and fighting your spouse over the children or becoming terminally ill – all those largely adult sources of misery that “emo music” hardly deals with (unlike some other kinds of popular music).
“Their image is as the cute kids of punk/metal, known for not swearing, drinking or drugging, and for their…Christian faith…”We’re not going to bang chicks – or guys in my case – after the show, and you’re not going to see us in the newspaper arrested for snorting cocaine in some bathroom.””
In this respect, Paramore clearly follow after the “straight-edge” punks of the 1980s, who took essentially the same line. Sensible enough as regards excessive drink and drugs, but sex and swearing too, and a total prohibition on booze? You might not particularly admire the lifestyle of Led Zeppelin at their peak, but who said that a music career was the equivalent of joining a strict monastic order?
This really does touch on a major cultural difference between Britain and America – religion. In this country, if you are a practicing Christian you are unusual and will probably be seen as such; and regarded with some suspicion. As Alastair Campbell said, “We don’t do God.” Many Americans believe that belief is a good thing, even if not all of them actually practice a religion, and apparently this even extends to their punks. I ought to prefer the American attitude but…it comes with baggage. Baggage I’d personally rather avoid, like Pat Robertson, the Mormons, Jimmy Swaggert and teetotal rock bands.
Hayley Williams attends a chiropractor because of head-banging related injuries
Chiropractor? Not punk, dude! More seriously, never worked for me. Manipulating my back never helped my back pain much – better to just stop head-banging.
She is “super-nostalgic” for the band’s early days
Adding “super” to adjectives as an intensifier? Not punk, dude! And a bit annoying.
The band used to eat at 7-11s for free “because we told them we were Nickelback”
NICKELBACK? NOT PUNK, DUDE! And don’t ask me what a 7-11 is, if it’s not the US version of 11 July… OK, I’ll stop now.