Screeching Weasel - Emo (retro review) (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Screeching Weasel

Emo (retro review) (1999)

Panic Button Records

Who knows what was going through the mind of Ben Weasel, (and maybe Jughead too), when he decided to call Screeching Weasel’s 10th full length Emo? It’s widely believed that it was poking fun at the subgenre that was taking the scene by storm, but maybe he was acknowledging the gradual shift in his own songwriting. Let’s face it, Emo was a far cry from the snarky suburban roots of “Mad at the Paper Boy”, “Used Cars” or “Thrift Store Girl”. It also didn’t resemble the more traditional, rebellious punk songs like “My Right”, “Hey Suburbia” or “I Was a High School Psychopath”.

Emo was an entirely different animal, although it shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise. From the beginning, Weasel’s songwriting had always, at least on occasion, been personal. On Emo, it also got confessional, and undeniably real. It had a greater sense of melancholy than any of the records that had come before it. It was the only LP to feature the quartet of Weasel (vocals/guitar), Jughead (guitar), Mass Giorgini (bass) and Dan Lumley (drums). It was also the first LP on the Weasel and Jughead’s newly formed Panic Button Records.

If the lyrics were more emotional than fans were used to, they were offset by the band’s loosest sounding record in years. The production was straightforward, simple, and in your face. Raw, like the feelings that were being expressed. It was the sound of a relationship coming to a painful end, expressed in words music. It was recorded in Chicago during the blizzard of ‘99, and you could almost feel the oppressive weight of the snow adding to the misery. Weasel wrote the liner notes himself, and they were some of his finest ranting and raving to date.

A handful of songs on Emo were stone cold SW classics. (Unfortunately, the current Jughead-less lineup rarely plays anything post Anthem for a New Tomorrow.) Opener, “Acknowledge”, was a powerful affirmation, and sounded a bit like something from a punk self-help book. “I am alive, walking, breathing and smiling, acknowledge the fact of my life.”

“Passion” shows Weasel wearing his heart on his formerly angry sleeve. “Passion, emotion, too concerned with looking like a fool/Action, devotion, sick of everybody acting cool.” On the surface, the oddest song choice might have been the cover of The Cranberries’ “Linger”, but the track actually blended perfectly with Weasel’s bittersweet collection of songs. It’s one of the highlights. Epic five minute closer, “Bark Like a Dog”, borrowed its name from the title of SW’s 1996 album.

Emo will always be remembered as Screeching Weasel’s breakup record. They never made another one quite like it. (Although Ben’s solo albums, especially These Ones Are Bitter, came close.) Time has been kind to Emo, and it has aged better than many of its sillier counterparts. SW was a band that seemed to be in constant disarray. They were breaking up and changing members on a regular basis. They were a band that was was always on the brink of falling apart, but still they managed to make compelling albums. Emo is not a perfect record, but it is a record that is perfect when the right mood strikes, and an essential piece of the Screeching Weasel discography.