WORDS : EMANUEL MATOS

Detached from hardcore punk’s early days in the Lower East Side and Queens, Long Island’s relationship with underground music is perhaps New York’s most peculiar. The borough’s longstanding tradition of boundary-pushing hardcore owes a lot to early 90s bands such as Vision of Disorder, yet the scene’s game-changer album came years later, by the hand of a young straight-edge group called Glassjaw.

It’s a seamless blend of two genres that, despite their emerging popularity at the time, had until then mostly remained confined to their respective sides of the pitch

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence (EYEWTKAS), Glassjaw’s 2000 debut LP, set the group apart from their contemporaries mostly because it made no efforts to fit in with the hardcore canon. It’s a seamless blend of two genres that, despite their emerging popularity at the time, had until then mostly remained confined to their respective sides of the pitch. EYEWTKAS is as unapologetically emo in its lyrics and vocal performance as it is boldly post-hardcore in its sound.

The record is rooted in duality. Aggression is present throughout, with vocalist Daryl Palumbo constantly discharging frenetic screams and painting a very unhinged picture that finds its match in the guitars of Justin Beck, the latter seemingly resolute in instilling the listener with a diluted sense of mistrust.

At the same time, and almost counter-intuitively, there are several moments of suspended grace, where the band comes together to deliver delicate melodies and create space in a tip-toed kind of way. The early “When One Eight Becomes Two Zeros” and tracks like “Her Middle Name Was Boom” and “Piano” reveal Glassjaw as balladeers and Palumbo as the crooner that he’d fully grow into for their sophomore album Worship and Tribute.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence laid out the blueprint for emo’s revenge record in a crude and visceral way, so much that it can be considered today’s sonic equivalent of revenge porn

Standout single “Siberian Kiss” is one of the many perfect examples of the range of emotions and sonic inventiveness that you can find on EYEWTKAS. Its initial muscled instrumental sounds off when paired with Palumbo’s borderline schizophrenic vocals, however when the magnanimous chorus payload is finally delivered it lights up the room and fills it with a warmth that overpowers all the previous dissonance. That is, until it all descends back into pandemonium immediately after.

In a completely different tone, the album’s homonymous track  – a gruesome take on Palumbo’s lifelong struggle with Crohn’s disease and the spiritual questions one asks while lying in a hospital bed – is a stunning exercise of musical tightrope balance. The instrumental oscillates between dispersion and collision, and it brims sincerity and provides the album with an epic closing chapter, even though it’s second to last in the tracklist.

In fact, there’s hardly a predictable riff or song part in the whole record, which only plays to its advantage. That’s the sheer brilliance of Glassjaw: the way they shift gears and execute extreme mood swings without losing track of what makes for good songwriting and memorable choruses. Nevertheless, in the midst of Beck’s riffage galore, Manuel Carrero’s sharply plucked basslines and the resourceful and relentless drumming of Sammy Siegler (of Youth of Today / Judge fame), there’s a big elephant in the room when it comes to this album that unquestionably did not age well: Palumbo’s lyrics are deeply rooted in misogyny.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence laid out the blueprint for emo’s revenge record in a crude and visceral way, so much that it can be considered today’s sonic equivalent of revenge porn. The word “whore” comes up about a dozen times, spread throughout almost a third of the songs, and threatening lines that sound dangerously close to advocating violence against women are also prevalent. The fervour in Palumbo’s voice as he smears his rage across “Lovebites and Razorlines” and paints violent scenarios that read like a psychopath diary entries only gets more disturbing after repeat listens.

More than a heartbreak record, EYEWTKAS explores humanity’s flawed nature and its evergreen quest to overcompensate mistakes and find solace within all the chaos

While anyone can empathise with the commiseration and the feelings of love lost, and arguably there’s a case to be made for creative expression and context, there is virtually no way of enjoying this album twenty years later without being acutely self-aware of its wrongdoings. Even if we admit that the gripping voyeurism of relationship fallout can make for a compelling listen, we can’t understate the way in which Glassjaw helped to shape emo’s archetype of the “heartless evil girl” that ultimately undermined the whole scene.

The band addressed these issues in 2017 and acknowledged the validity of such criticism in post #MeToo age and has been slowly removing their EYEWTKAS legacy from live sets over the years.

More than a heartbreak record, EYEWTKAS explores humanity’s flawed nature and its evergreen quest to overcompensate mistakes and find solace within all the chaos. Soundwise, it paradoxically ostracised Glassjaw from their local scene and elevated them to cult-like status, alongside post-hardcore heroes At the Drive-In and Refused,  while having an underlying influence in Long Island that would be felt for years to come (see the early days of Brand New or Taking Back Sunday).

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