Great Wight - The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Great Wight

The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life (2017)


The term emo, originally short for “emocore,” started in the 80’s DC hardcore scene to describe hardcore bands with emotional, rather than political, lyrics. As I’ve written about before, emo has gone through a few different generations that were all very different from each other, and its current incarnation bears little resemblance to early emocore. But when someone uses modern emo style music ­­and pairs it with political lyrics, then what do you call it? Politico? Oh, wait, that’s already the name of something, isn’t it? Well, I guess they’re not fully political lyrics, as Great Wight’s album The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life, melds the political and personal, and addresses issues about being black, queer, atheist, leftist punks in the suburban Bible Belt.

What I love about this album is that this band has absolutely no regard for how things are normally done. Besides the fact that they’re using emo to make a political statement, they often squeeze too many syllables into a line to get a specific message across, thus disrupting the flow of the song in a Dylanesqe way. And they make a lot of emo inside references, like a song taking place at a Tiny Moving Parts concert titled “It Turns Out There Aren’t That Many Perks of Being a Wallflower.” The result is an album with lots of refreshing surprises of things that aren’t that weird, but which you just don’t see that often in this kind of music.

“The American Way” is the album’s most blatant political diatribe, touching on topics ranging from abortion rights to racial stereotyping. The topic of racial stereotypes is further expanded upon in the next track, “Not Black Enough,” a slow and deliberate song whose lyrics offer a unique perspective on black identity over, for most of the song, a sole bass guitar that seems to be playing the intro to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” on a loop. But easily the best song is the aforementioned “It Turns Out There Aren’t That Many Perks of Being a Wallflower” which talks about the difficulties of connecting to other people and forming new friendships, and which goes on a long and complex journey through a lot of different emotions, always returning to that Tiny Moving Parts concert.

The only thing that makes me wince about Great Wight is their names. Besides the fact that it’s a cheap trick to simply change the spelling of a band name to avoid directly copying a much more established band, the name they’re riffing off of, Great White, is a verboten band name where I’m from. I grew up in Rhode Island, and for us the name Great White is the name of the ridiculous hair metal band that, in 2003, tried to put on a stadium style pyrotechnics show in a very small nightclub, starting a fire that killed 100 people. We have a long memory on that one, and we’re not big fans of their being one band by that name, let alone two. Still, I doubt Great Wight had that in mind when they chose their name, so I try to give them a pass on it, but it lingers in the back of my mind.

The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life is a stellar first outing from a band that adds some diversity into a predominantly white and cishet genre, and really remakes it into something new. If this gains some traction and starts to reform the emo genre, I’m all for that. But, expectations aside, this is an excellent album.