City Paper is not for tourists
Emo-rock still thrives 10 years after winter overtook Rites of Spring. While the trademarks of emo (loosely defined by earnestly yearning vocals yelping out confessional poetry backed by anthemic post-punk) are ripe for parody (witness unwitting satirists Pearl Jam), there is still the occasional record that can twist my ears. The Promise Ring’s Nothing Feels Good is the sort of album that takes me back to the days when driving around immersed in the sounds of Gray Matter, Embrace, and Rites of Spring was as good as therapy. Going for maximum effect, vocalist/guitarist Davey von Bohlen wrings words like “line” into “la-ha-ine” and “afraid” into “uh-huh-fray-eeee-aaaaaa-dah,” recalling Bob Mould’s penchant for turning a monosyllable into a tongue twister. While the Promise Ring’s music is achingly grand, recalling Sunny Day Real Estate, a punkier Seam, and a tighter Superchunk, von Bohlen’s lyrics are enigmatically personal (or just plain Counting Crows bad). The CD cover follows a Twister schematic, and there’s a color theme throughout Nothing Feels Good’s lyrics, which also display von Bohlen’s preference for geographic imagery and wistful romanticism. All three predilections surface in “Pink Chimneys”: “Where’s New England in my life?/It’s only cold when you sleep alone/And pink chimneys in Maine couldn’t keep me away.” But perhaps the printed words for the instrumental “How Nothing Feels””So much like a language/Nothing ever gets finished”state the best way to approach his open-ended tales. Unlike the emo lyrics that carried me through my teens, von Bohlen’s screeds won’t find themselves scribbled in my notebook. But I will be taking Nothing Feels Good with me on every road trip for the next 10 yearsand there is no higher praise than that.Christopher Porter
The Promise Ring plays the Black Cat Tuesday, Oct. 14.