Various Artists

Emo Is Awesome Emo Is Evil, Vol. 2

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The second volume of Emo Is Awesome/Emo Is Evil gathers album tracks from 14 Deep Elm bands. But while most of the label's comps draw from both the old guard and newbies, it's the latter group that dominates here and turns in the strongest material. Slowride returns from Emo Is Awesome's first volume, but its "Panther 1" is a strange cross between straight-up indie rock and Foo Fighters. Appleseed Cast's "Marigold & Patchwork" is better, but dating from 1998, it's getting a little long in the tooth. Besides, it's already appeared on at least one other Deep Elm comp. The label is obviously high on Swedish crazies Sounds Like Violence -- it's the only band to appear twice here, and rightly so. "Perfect" and "You Give Me Heart Attacks" are definitely of the emo/post-hardcore variety, but the band never sticks to convention, preferring to blend the emotive qualities of early U2 with manic freakouts and a ripping two-guitar attack closer to punk-influenced indie than the contrived weepiness that tends to clog up emo. Italy's Settlefish is another highlight here, contributing the brief, wordy jumble of "Blindfold the Leaves" from its strong 2002 effort Dance a While, Upset. Lock and Key has been listening to a lot of vintage hardcore, and imbues "2nd Quarter Broken" with both urgent melody and tightly wound chops. Benton Falls and Brandston stick closer to the emo template -- brooding lyrics of the lovelorn, anthemic melodic breaks -- but each shows a nice flair for dynamics. Ultimately, Emo Is Awesome/Emo Is Evil isn't so much an answer to that conundrum as it is a road map, erecting signposts of varying effectiveness on top of each capitalized vowel.

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