American “Emo” Music’s Affinity For Car Crashes In The 00’s

2004 was a weird year. I was 13 for most of it,  but after I turned 14 I started getting into punk music, like the kind that said “fuck the government, everything is a conspiracy” and the kind that said “drinking beer and hanging out with my friends rules.” I am now 23 and while I continue to think that drinking beer and hanging out with my friends rules, I definitely don’t have any connection to that whole…”movement” at this point in time. Totally down for people to rep and appreciate it, it just doesn’t really fit with who/where I am now.

BUT HOLD UP. What I listened to before the anger and the angst towards things that I really couldn’t do a damn thing about was more poppy and fun but honestly, about things that I didn’t understand (a la being a big Blink 182 fan at age 9. Like what the fuck can a 9-year old relate to on Enema of the State other than “this rocks” while bobbing my little 9-year old head) And what I listened to after (or in secret at the time so my friends wouldn’t think I was lame he he) was much more relative to the “my life is a mess and it’s your fault” side of things, which anyone can relate to at any age…but ESPECIALLY as a 14-16 year old girl in suburban New York, because you just don’t understand, okay?

In finding solace and comfort in other people’s songs of sadness, especially at intensified levels (hello, screaming) I discovered what most people refer to as “emo” music. Don’t try and fucking school me on what real emo music is because yeah, I know. But for lack of a better term, I can’t call this whole scene of music “post-emo screaming garbage” so get off your high horse, you know what I mean. ANYWAY, the point is, bands in the early 00’s had this whole relating-regular-life-problems-to-intense-tragedies thing going for them, whatever literary device that may be, I don’t care. It was a THING and they all did it, and all of us ate that shit up. Or, you listened to the “fuck the government, everything is a conspiracy” music and made fun of the soft stuff. Or you only listened to the radio and then I don’t even know why you’re reading this because go away. But if you were into the whole having feelings thing, you owned Your Favorite Weapon or you at least ripped it from the web in crappy quality. And you had a MySpace. And it had tons of HTML formatting, lyrics as photo captions, and tiresome blog posts or bulletins about how you just fucking can’t right now. And every time you got in a fight with your “best friend” at the time you would post a snarky something containing that one lyric from “Seventy Times Seven”. You know the one:

And you can think of me, when you forget your seatbelt, and again when your head goes through the windshield.

Like, why? Did you really want your friend to die in a car accident? Of course you did, cause that bitch told someone what you said and now they’re mad at you, or you were going after the same guy or girl and you totally had dibs on them first. That. Bitch.

But really, where did this OBSESSION with the car crash come from? Wishing death and destruction upon someone who crossed you? Comparing the giant mess that is life to an actual mess of shattered glass and blood and whatever else? Or did someone really die in a terrible accident and the rest of the world is insensitive for trivializing your pain? It’s a theme in music from all kinds of time periods and genres, but we don’t want to talk about that shitty Pearl Jam song because it bums everyone out and it just sucks. Let’s stick with how it came up several times throughout the early 00’s.


1. “Understanding in a Car Crash” Thursday

Here’s a fun fact: I went to see Thursday in like, 2006 and WE DROVE BY A CAR CRASH ON THE WAY THERE. TRAFFIC WAS TRAGIC. I digress: this track seems to do the car thing incredibly literally, but also sounds like dude is trying really hard to get over something and struggling. Probably about a breakup. It’s always a fucking breakup.

2. “Seventy Times 7” Brand New

Of course I mentioned this already, it is the all-encompassing “fuck you” to someone that means/meant something a lot to you. Arguably, this is from the time before Brand New found their musical prowess that they are so renowned for now, but the strong words were there.  There’s really only that one lyric relating to this wreck phenomenon but it resonates beyond all songs ever.

3. “Fuck You Aurora” Alkaline Trio

I mean, Alkaline Trio was one of the only bands that I consistently loved and part of that was for their, though usually overly dramatic, interesting and appealing lyrics. Honestly, it’s kind of hard to tell what the fuck dude is talking about here, but what I imagine is the narrator should have gotten a DUI and the result was death of his bae. Maybe I’m just macabre but that’s the vibe I’m getting and it’s their vibe in general…the band does a few cute love songs though. FUCK IT, IT’S PROBABLY ABOUT A BREAKUP.

4. “The Artist and The Ambulance” Thrice

Listen, I know Thrice upped their game and became this like, post-rock entity to be worshipped for their musicianship. But at my first Warped Tour, I went to check them out while they were playing my favorite song from them and accidentally got punched in the face. I had a fat lip but hey, that’s kinda hot right? I WAS 14 CHILL. Anyway, this one seems pretty darn literal and I didn’t really listen to it as often as the other songs so I don’t care to explore it more. It almost seems political, or lecture-y, and I just can’t. Thrice, I liked you better when you were making dudes accidentally punch me in the face.

5. “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door” Underoath

I tried to deny that I liked this band for months before I finally gave up and stopped making fun of them and got kind of into this album. Plus, the girl on the album cover has a really pretty eyes. You can barely understand what screamy-man is saying, but from little-angel-voice doing the chorus vocals, you wouldn’t know this was part of the car crash cult.  However: ” Glass shatters and comes to a halt, I thought we’d be there by now, I thought it would be so much quicker than this, Pain has never been so brilliant, I made sure you were buckled in, Now you can walk hand in hand, Hand in hand with him.” First of all, FUCK OFF with the Christian references. Second of all…what? Did you plan on her dying? Did you both die? Suicide pact gone wrong? What the fuck are you talking about? But the world ignored all those questions, because it was easier to headbang to the sounds that were supposed to be words.

6. “Love Rhymes With Hideous Car Wreck” The Blood Brothers

Every scene queen/weird girl who thought they were too cool for all that had some sort of representation of the lyrics to this on whatever internet service they used to represent themselves. But a lot of people who thought they were musically/mentally beyond that subculture were into this band too, so who knows where they really fit in on the scale. Versatile, but also not, because while some people dig the two-opposing-vocalists and intense instrumental change thing…some don’t. They weren’t really any type of “emo” but some people who liked them were, so deal. Lyrics read as though some dude was into some crazy chick, got over it, dumped her, and then maybe she was pissed and ran him over with a car. But is she like, actually alive? Or a ghost? Such mystery.

7. “Calling All Cars” Senses Fail

This band had a special place in my library, but that was before this album. This song is kind of really irritating to listen to but it definitely fits the profile of comparing yet again: a goddamn breakup, to an accident.

What have we learned today? Bands thrived on thinly veiled comparisons between two usually messy, painful and sometimes life-shattering events.

Car Crash = Breakup.

Whether between couples/friends/your hairdresser, they suck. But please: no one write any more songs using that whole thing, because now we all know your secret and it’s bumming everyone out.

American “Emo” Music’s Affinity For Car Crashes In The 00’s

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