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Emo Synth-Pop

by Dan Weiss

Emo Synth-Pop


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Synthesizers were mostly unwelcome in the '90s, when punk finally made its commercial move in America. Punks have always had a strange relationship with synths, though, as New Wave sprung from post-punk architects like Devo and Pere Ubu, and influential acts like Wire eventually gravitated to them. When Weezer debuted with Ric Ocasek's smooth, synthesized touch, bassist Matt Sharp split off to form the even more square and New Wave-y Rentals, who had minor hits like "Waiting," while more traditional, NOFX-affiliated punks The Epoxies brandished keyboards instead of axes.

After emo took over the masses, replacing the bratty glory of Green Day and Blink-182 with the more inside-jokey references of Panic! At the Disco and The Get Up Kids side project Reggie and the Full Effect, keyboard arrangements that were initially a snarky pose started to become the new sincerity, taking over bands like Cobra Starship (with the under-noticed anthem "Disaster Boy") and Metro Station (whose "Shake It" has four gold chords almost worthy of The Hives). Even yelpy, formerly emo-like guitar units like The Faint and Hot Hot Heat found their calling in herky-jerky synth riffs to match their lyrical anxiety, like on the former's majestically dark abusive-relationship ballad "I Treat You Wrong."

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