Reviving a love of emo with The Front Bottoms

As many kids who came of age in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was obsessed with emo music. Those Drive-Thru Records and Triple Crown acts, especially Saves the Day, Dashboard Confessional, Starting Line, Brand New, and so on. That love subsided as I grew older. While I still enjoy those bands on occasion, their lack of new (good) material sent me on a journey into older alternative bands, newest punk bands, and various forefathers of indie rock.

However, it has been hard to ignore the recent revival of emo.  This so-called 4th wave is categorized by the same things that made emo popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s: a propensity towards catchy melodies, emotive lyrics, and inclusive community.  Bands with sort of silly names, like The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to to Die, In It. Over It., A Great Big Pile of Leaves, and The Wonder Years are entertaining a whole new generation of emo kids while inviting the older fans in with a bit of familiarity.

One of the major players in this scene has been The Front Bottoms.  As a band I initially ignored due to their silly name, I have come to love in the past couple of months.

Hailing from New Jersey, the band is made up of Brian Sella on vocals/guitar, Matt Uychich on drums,Tom Warren on bass, and Ciaran O’Donnel on keys, trumpet, and guitar. They released a few DIY albums before releasing a self-titled debut on local label Bar/None in 2011, followed by Talon of the Hawk in 2013, and Rose, an EP, in 2014.

In the way that Gaslight Anthem wears its Jersey roots straight ahead, The Front Bottoms are bit more delicate.  Sure, they address Jersey in many of their songs, but they are not going after that Bruce aesthetic. It is more of the aesthetic developed and honed by bands like Lifetime and The Bouncing Souls.

And like many Jersey bands, one of the common themes of The Front Bottoms is one’s roots.  In “Flashlight”, they talk about going back to their hometown. After many years, they find former classmates into “mad shady situations.” Many people never left the dead-end suburban life and have suffered because of it.

Songs like “Funny You Should Ask” and “Tattooed Tears” address growing older and learning what love is and how love really looks like. Stories are told with only a few specifically named actors; pronouns invite the listener to make these stories their own.

The Front Bottoms are not afraid to address difficult topics, “Lone Star,” another stand out track from Talon, tells the difficult story of getting your girlfriend pregnant (Brian swears this is a second-hand experience, though, according to the Spotify album commentary). “Twin Size Mattress” talks about supporting troubled friends through community.

Their music brings the listener into a time (long past or present day) when life was simpler. Emotions were defined in the moment and the only responsibilities were discovering the latest band, attending the next show, and buying the newest records. From the mundane to the serious, common experiences about lost love, friendship, and growing up are conveyed through sing-along style lyrics and catchy melodies.

Learn more about The Front Bottoms on their official website.  You can catch The Front Bottoms on the first episode of The Chris Gethard Show, premiering on the Fusion TV.  The episode taping will be streaming online Tuesday May 26th, followed by a broadcast on Fusion TV on May 28th.  They have some tour dates planned.


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