The connotations of the word “emo” have evolved over the years. It was once used to define emotional post-punk bands – predominantly in the Midwest – such as The Promise Ring or American Football. But at a certain point in the early to mid-2000’s, emo took on a new meaning. Many of those seminal groups were pushed aside, and emo instead became associated with bands gracing the cover of Alternative Press and the front window of Hot Topic. Music industry professional Tom Mullen started the Washed Up Emo blog and podcast during a time when people had largely forgotten about the emo bands of the ’90s. Alternative music circles had adopted a new view of emo, and it wasn’t positive, with many punk fans viewing the redefined genre as a corny and juvenile expression of teen angst.
Mullen set out to assemble the Anthology of Emo: Volume 1 to counter the false perceptions of the genre that evolved throughout the 2000s. Several years after starting the Washed Up Emo podcast, Mullen had an arsenal of interviews with genre pioneers. Ten of those interviews were transcribed and make up this first volume. The interviews in Volume 1 tend to focus on icons from the early days of the genre, from very early pioneers like Mike Kinsella of American Football and Cap’n Jazz, to mid-2000s emo icons like Further Seems Forever and Dashboard Confessional frontman Chris Carrabba.
Within these interviews, Mullen and his guests map out the history of the genre’s formation. But the book doesn’t focus only on the past. One topic that resurfaces throughout Anthology… is the “emo revival” that has risen to prominence over the past few years. Mullen and his interviewees discuss the modern bands that have picked up the torch for the genre, and try to pinpoint exactly when and why this emo revival happened. As this first book laid out the groundwork for a deep dive into the history of the genre, hopefully subsequent publications will highlight some of the newer acts that have emerged. With over 100 thoughtful and insightful interviews logged on his popular “Washed Up Emo” podcast, Mullen could fill many more volumes if he chooses to do so. It will be interesting to see what direction Anthology of Emo takes from here.