The golden era of emo feels like it was so long ago, doesn’t it? It feels even longer ago if you’re nearly 30 and you were a teenager when emo was in its prime, which is the category that I fall under. That genre really spoke to us as teenagers. For a lot of us at that age, it was the first time that we really felt connected to something bigger than us. For the first time we felt like other people understood how we felt and what was happening in our heads, and we weren’t alone anymore. We became a part of a community; an extended family of sorts. It also brought a plethora of questionable fashion choices that most of us would rather forget about, only we aren’t allowed to forget about them. Ever. As soon as you bring your girlfriend or boyfriend to meet your parents the emo photos come out at the same time as the baby photos, and everything is brought up to the surface again. On the whole, though, I’d confidently say that we all look back fondly on those days and the music that created it all. So many bands have come and gone, and many of the genres pioneers have ceased to be. One of the biggest influences of the movement, however, are still going strong today. Still releasing records and still touring all over the world. That band is Hawthorne Heights. If you were an emo kid and you hadn’t heard Ohio Is For Lovers or Niki FM, you weren’t truly an emo kid. They unintentionally wrote anthems for our generation. 2018 sees the release of their brand new album Bad Frequencies. It’s their first record in 5 years, and also their first on Pure Noise Records. Have they changed, or are they still the same old emo heroes that they were 14 years ago?
This album transported me straight back to my teens. It has the same sound that made them so popular all those years ago, and they’re still using the same formula to fire out catchy and infectious gems. Tracks like Pink Hearts and Just Another Ghost serve as radio friendly ragers, with an upbeat vibe and instantly memorable choruses that would undoubtedly entice a crowd into a mass singalong. The Perfect Way To Fall Apart, Edge Of Town and The Suicide Mile are all vintage Hawthorne Heights, showcasing their mastery of soft and gradually intensifying verses that erupt into enormous chords and soaring chorus melodies. Crimson Sand and Push Me Away sit a little more on the aggressive and punky side of the genre, and act as a nice change of pace. The latter is one of the stand out tracks on the record, boasting enormous guitar sections and a chorus that immediately ingrains itself in your brain. They display their softer and slower side too with more ballad style tracks like Starlighter (Echo, Utah), Straight Down The Line and album closer Pills. The record has been recorded really well too. Everything cuts through the mix really clearly, making every single note from every single instrument audible. But, despite all of this, I found myself somewhat underwhelmed when I reached the end of the record. I didn’t feel like I’d listened to anything new. This record, although it is a good record, simply isn’t hugely exciting or groundbreaking. When I listen to new albums I almost expect for the music to reach out through the speakers, grab me by the throat and yell “LOOK WHAT WE’VE BECOME, LOOK HOW WE’VE PROGRESSED, LOOK HOW MUCH BETTER WE ARE NOW” in my face. This album just tapped me on the shoulder and said “We’re still writing good music”.
Don’t get me wrong, the album is solid. There isn’t a bad song on the album whatsoever, it all flows together well and I enjoyed listening to it. But I think the main reason I enjoyed the listen was due to the nostalgia. If this album came out in 2006 it would have been perfect, but now it just feels dated. It doesn’t feel like they’re a different band at all which I suppose, dependant on your perspective, you could class as a good thing. But it doesn’t feel like they’ve progressed. They’re still riding the same wave. I liked the album, but I wasn’t blown away by it. If you’re a fan of the band though and you’re a fan of the genre, this record is definitely worth a listen. All your favourite things about the genre and the band can be found here, and they’re all really well executed. If you haven’t heard of Hawthorne Heights before, however, this album serves as both a good introduction to the band and a good introduction to emo in general. If you like this album, you will love the genre-defining artists and albums that kickstarted the entire movement.
Bad Frequencies is a great album. It just feels like it’s a little late to the party.