(feat. track – “Dance Miserable” [spotify] from Soul Punk)
It’s no secret around here that I’m a big fan of just about everything Fall Out Boy did, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise that I feel the same way about Patrick Stump’s solo releases. Of all the post-FOB projects (Black Cards, The Damned Things, Burning Empires), Stump’s is really the only one I’ve connected with, and I’ve connected with it in a big way.
Partly it’s that voice – soulful, blustery, half confident and half that sort of fake confidence that gives away, more than masks, insecurity. Partly it’s the sounds he toys with – I feel like there’s a serious funk current running thru pop right now (I found it this year in everyone from Lights to Cobra Starship) that’s right in my wheelhouse, and Stump plays it like a champ. And partly it’s that the dude just writes really good tunes.
Last Fall, New York Times music columnist James C. McKinley Jr. raised the Internet’s hackles with a story on the dearth of protest songs revolving around the Occupy movement. McKinley was taken to task (appropriately) for his deaf ear towards country and hip hop, perhaps the two most populist popular genres today, both of which have plenty to say on the subject. But if you’re the sort who’s insistent on getting your protest music from a white, male, rock-oriented performer, well I’m not sure anyone this year did a better job of harnessing, or at least elucidating, the zeitgeist than Stump. Tracks like Soul Punk’s “Dance Miserable” and “Greed” and Truant Wave’s “As Long As I Know I’m Getting Paid” put a laser focus on the strains of disillusionment and cynicism that were largely inescapable this past year. On an album that draws so much of its musical influence from the worlds of soul and funk, it’s hard not to trace lines from Stump’s 2011 work to albums like Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly soundtrack, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Sly and the Family Stone’s There’s A Riot Goin’ On, products of similar economic times and social upheaval.
Those are obviously some weighty comparisons to make, and while I do think Stump’s work measures up favorably, it has become apparent that it won’t have nearly the impact, despite the fact that both its sound and subject matter should have broad appeal. To quote music journalist / Alternative Press Managing Editor Annie Zaleski on Stump, “[i]ncreasingly, any artist who’s been immersed in the Warped Tour/media-classified “emo” scene is branded with a scarlet letter, which prevents them from ever crossing over to a non-youth-oriented audience.“** This has held true throughout “emo”’s transition from obscure subgenre to mainstream scene, even as its sound transmogrified from hardcore to scruffily-melodic indie to stadium punk. It would be a stretch to say Truant Wave or Soul Punk retain much, if any, connection to any of “emo”’s many sounds, and Stump’s connection to its fanbase is now tangential at best (judging by the smallish crowds his headliner performances have drawn), but his history with that scene may have consigned him to permanent-Dangerfield status.
So be it. Despite its strange little moment in the sun (for which Fall Out Boy arrived right on time), “emo” – and its purveyors – were never mean to be cool. If Truant Wave and Soul Punk are consigned to being lost classics, well at least in the age of Bittorrent and Spotify they’ll merely be hidden in plain sight, always accessible to those who look hard enough. And maybe someday, after all the social trappings have long fallen away, when nobody remembers exactly why things were supposed to be so cool or uncool and people have to start judging based just on the music, they’ll get their due.
review of Truant Wave EP (published 3/06/11)
review of Soul Punk (published 1/13/12)
**I realized while reading the commentary on the 2011 Pazz & Jop Poll that I may have unintentionally plagarized some of Ms. Zaleski’s comments regarding Soul Punk, which she had previously shared on twitter. I’ve gone back and rewritten a portion of this entry, as well as credited her where appropriate. Mea culpa; all apologies! And if you enjoy smart, insightul and eminantly readable music writing, you should be following her on twitter or here; she “gets it”.