Braid: Greatest Emo Band of All Time?
Before getting into the meat of this post, a couple things need to be clarified. First, this is not a piece on Montreal art rock band Braids. Rather, it's about Urbana, Ill. emo band Braid (read: no "s".) Secondly, it's important to announce the overwhelming bias I have for this Midwestern musical outfit who was the soundtrack of my life for more than a decade. After breaking up in 1998 the band's label, Polyvinyl Records has announced the band is in the process of pressing an EP, their first effort since 1998's epic Frame and Canvas.
No doubt there are many familiar with the band rolling their eyes at my enthusiasm who consider Braid the equivalent of sonic garbage. "Nanna's voice is too scratchy, and whiny." "Chris Broach screams too much." "Their drummer would be better if he didn't play such complicated fills." There's probably also a group of folks who have yet to hear the band, who will go out and give them a listen, then promptly roll their eyes. I say to both, stop being so critical and just try to enjoy the music.
For those who are not familiar with the band or what's going on with them, here's the basic story:
Braid was formed in 1993 when guitarist/singer Bob Nanna, a University of Illinois student teamed up with drummer Roy Ewing, who responded to a classified ad placed by Nanna for someone interested in trading video tapes of live shows.
The two shared similar musical interests, and after the addition of bassist Todd Bell, and guitarist Chris Broach, Braid was formed. Ewing eventually left the band and was replaced by Damon Atkinson. According to Braid's Facebook page, the band played 597 shows in 47 states and 18 countries. Prior to their breakup, they recorded a slew of 7"s as well as three full length albums, a live release and a movie documenting their final shows.
After breaking up, the majority of the players went on to form power pop group Hey Mercedes sans Broach who went on to form the Firebird Band. Braid briefly reunited in 2004 to do a quick US tour and played a fantastic show at Anaheim all-ages venue Chain Reaction.
Needless to say, I'm ecstatic. But there are those who cannot wrap their brains around the fact that people like this band. Braid shares much in common with other bands such as The Promise Ring and the Getup Kids (read dramatic lyrics and weird melodies).
Despite their uber dramatic lyrical material ("Everything is nothing/and nothing's important"), my best guess is that there is something incredibly visceral in the band's angular rhythms, gutteral screams and histrionic lyrical material. A complete letting go of musical convention and a big fuck you to those who would place contraints on their vision. But instead of skewing ego maniacle, there's an overidding honesty in the music. A raw expression of emotion giving creedence to genre's name. My only question at this point is whether or not they'll be playing in our neck of the woods anytime soon.