Warning: I use homophobic slurs (ironically) to show what a mongo I once was. If you can't handle that, go suck a dick or something.
I remember playing some kind of shitty online game involving emo bands. Although I don't exactly remember the premise of the game, a bit of cut-scene dialogue sticks out in my head as memorable. I'm paraphrasing here, but essentially the game stated that members of all "emo" bands (with the exception of HWM and ATDI for some reason) had ovaries, which made it impossible for these bands to put out more than three good albums before putting out a shitty one, imploding, and breaking up.
With that in mind, today's SOTD is by Alexisonfire. They officially broke up a couple of days ago (weeks now I guess, god I'm lazy) and since they were the band that got me into hardcore/punk/music with screaming, I feel obligated to say something. So here goes.
When I was in Grade 8, my friend Sean showed a 'screamo' song he was really into called "Accidents." Being heavy into bands like Guns N' Roses and AC/DC at the time, I immediately dismissed Accidents as "gay screaming bullshit" and most likely began jokingly questioning Sean's sexuality as Grade 8's do. Three-ish years later, when my musical tastes had become slightly more progressive (Pantera, The Afghan Whigs) I heard "Boiled Frogs" by a band called Alexisonfire on CFNY (Toronto's alternative radio station), and was immediately conflicted. On one hand, I knew that screaming music was "queer and shitty", but on the other hand, there was something about this "Boiled Frogs" song ; I actually kind of liked it! At first I decided to play it safe and dismiss the song, but after a few more radio listens, it became inescapable. That song was damn good. I had to download it. After downloading and listening to the shit out of a couple songs off Crisis (Limewire days), I decided that I needed more AOF in my life. So, one day, I went to HMV, bought Watch Out!, then proceeded to get high as shit and listen to it.
I can still remember the way the first track, "Accidents", gripped me. Never in my life had I heard something so fast, explosive, or unrestrained. There was an energy to this music even the hardest rocking Tragically Hip or Pearl Jam songs (my then favourite bands) didn't hold a candle to. I was used to dark, brooding angst with brief moments of emotional release - "Accidents" was dripping in pure fucking anger. Watch Out! became simultaneously the single most challenging and refreshing piece of music I'd ever heard.
As I listened to Watch Out! more and more, it became somewhat of a crutch for me. Musically, the whole album was a punch in the mouth to the way I thought about structure, instrumentation and dynamics. Emotionally, however, it felt more like a warm hug from an old friend. At the time I was going through a rough breakup, not getting into the college I wanted, a bunch of beef with my parents, and all that other bullshit that seems insurmountable when you're 17. Along with a few Tragically Hip records, Watch Out! became the soundtrack to my life. Angry, aggressive, emotionally charged, and most importantly, hopeful, the album gave me a place to turn when I felt I'd exhausted all other options. To this day I listen to at least part of that album once a week.
It always seemed to me that AOF got a bit of a bad rap. Not only were they dismissed by Pink Floyd shirt kids like myself as being "gay screamo bullshit", but by the old guard for being, essentially "gay screamo bullshit". They were always unfairly lumped in with not-entirely-dissimilar sounding bands who came out around that time. You know, the ones that dyed their hair stupid colours and sang pop songs about getting bullied in high school. Alexis was a different breed. They were fast, challenging, sometimes violent and always fraught with emotion. There was nothing lame about this band, the haters never got it because they never cared to.
Say what you will about this band, but if you're in the 18-25 crowd, listen to punk/hardcore, and live anywhere near a 400 series highway, AOF is in your blood. You get an adrenaline rush every time you hear the first two notes of ".44 Caliber Love Letter". You know all the words to Dallas' parts in Watch Out! and probably most of Crisis. If you don't own that poster with them on the school bus, one of your close friends does. I guarantee you know somebody with that heart-skull logo tattooed on them. We pretty much grew up with this band, and seeing them break up is like closing a chapter in our lives. I mean, the first time you heard these guys you were probably still getting bullied and wouldn't see second base for another two years. And when you couldn't handle all of your own spastic, pent up aggression, you listened to a band that seemed to thrive on whatever the hell you were feeling. Now, that band has broken up, and you have a degree, a job, tattoos, a girlfriend, a phone bill and responsibilities that your 15-year-old self could have never fathomed.
I guess we're just not the kids we used to be.
Saying "RIP" to six dudes who are all still alive and well seems like an odd thing to say. So I guess I'll just say good-bye Alexisonfire. Thanks for the music and the memories.