Various Artists

Emo Is Awesome/Emo Is Evil

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Deep Elm is an indie rock label probably best-known for its Emo Diaries series. The title of the Emo Is Awesome/Emo Is Evil compilation gives a clue as to their feeling for being known as a strictly emo label. The disc features the 18 bands currently on the label (Appleseed Cast appears twice) with songs taken from previously released albums. The lineup of bands can be divided much like Deep Elm's feelings about emo: some are awesome, some are evil, but unfortunately most are forgettable. The better bands are Appleseed Cast, whose "Reaction" goes against the tide of the disc by being a quiet, melodic ballad; Camber, whose "Hollowed Out" shows a deep melodic sense and a firm grip on dynamics; Last Days of April, whose "Asprins and Alcohol" shows a much-welcomed shoegazer influence and surprise with the addition of strings to their ultra-melodic sound; and Desert City Soundtrack and Pop Unknown, who transcend the emo tag and play impassioned, guitar-based, punk-influenced indie rock. Very emotional, yes, but not in a cute, "hug me I'm wearing a tattered sweater" kind of way -- more in a making-a-lot-of-noise-and-spilling-guts-like-Fugazi-or-the Anniversary kind of way. The evil bands are the ones like Slowride, Benton Falls, and Cross My Heart, who sound like they stole the emo playbook and are following each diagram right down to the letter. Or the bands like This Beautiful Mess, who sound about two steps away from being Creed on the overblown stadium emo of Clean. How these guys snuck on here is a mystery. The rest of the bands and songs are pleasant, but pretty generic. If Deep Elm trimmed off some of the weaker acts they are supporting and focused their energy on the five or six bands who sound like they could do something really cool, they might join the ranks of big-time, small-time labels. As it is now and as this compilation illustrates, they are a good label with a positive vision, they just need a slightly sharper prescription.

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