So, band reunions. What a crock of shit. At The Drive-In, Refused and Sunny Day Real Estate reformed to play a few shows then promptly disappeared again. Returns of the Pixies, Pavement and Public Enemy prompted cries of ‘Meh…’ up and down the land. Small Brown Bike came back with the worst record of their lives, but Godspeed You! Black Emperor with one of their best. Bad Brains and Dead Kennedy’s comebacks didn’t exactly produce inspired outcomes Still, this writer can’t help but get a bit excited at Texas Is The Reason. Maybe they’ll do as so many others of their generation have done and fill their wallets before exiting stage right, but they might just be worth the wait…
Texas Is The Reason were one of the defining emocore/post-hardcore/heartcore/whatever-you-wanna-call-it-core acts of the ’90s, in those halcyon days before emo became a dirty word. Their only full-length, 1996’s Do You Know Who You Are? was one of the few records of that era that has stood the test of time, its return in ‘Complete Collection’ form one of the rare times such a release can fairly be called ‘much-anticipated’. It’s the music many of you out there, like me, grew up on, scouring the fanzines and the sleeve-notes for references to bands we knew and those that might just be worth taking a punt on.
This was the era of Shudder To Think, Cap’n Jazz, Mineral, Chamberlain, Christie Front Drive… Soon after came the likes of Brandtson, Elliott, Saves The Day, Fairweather, Garrison… The lists could go on and on. Truthfully, a fair amount of it was piss-poor, the sound of whiny teen America at it’s most grating. Remember those Deep Elm samplers with the titles that now make you wince? It was anything on Revelation, anything on Deep Elm, anything on Vagrant and Victory and Polyvinyl and Burning Heart, anything with J. Robbins’ name on, preferably with artwork of the American midwest and with a needlessly wordy album title. It was hard (and expensive) work wading through the shit, but worth it for the gems in the rough, the ‘Diary’s, the ‘Frame And Canvas’s, the ‘Perfecting Loneliness’s, the ‘Clarity’s the ’24 Hour Revenge Therapy’s, and the ‘Do You Know Who You Are?’s
What held these releases apart from the rest was the tunes, so many tunes; so many hooks and melodies and riffs and choruses jumping out of the speakers. Do You Know Who You Are? is not flawless – as with so much of the music in this genre it can seem a bit monotone at times – but in Johnny On The Spot, Back And To The Left and A Jack With One Eye they have some of the genre’s finest moments, Garrett Klahn’s wailing voice soaring, ‘You’ll have to try harder than that, you’ll have to dig deeper than that!’ This collection expands the original nine tracks to sixteen, adding their self-titled three-track EP, two b-sides from split releases and two previously unreleased tracks written in 1997 but not recorded until 2012. It is, in short, everything they’ve ever done, probably everything they will ever do.
With hindsight the genre’s decline almost feels inevitable, as it all became exponentially watered down as the contrivance and marketability was ramped up. It was as if everything The Promise Ring and Far and Sensefield and The Van Pelt had fought for, and before them Embrace and Rites Of Spring and Moss Icon was all for nothing. It’s not just nostalgia speaking either. There’s a long list of sterile, genericore bands that drunk the genre dry, but it would make me sad (cough My Chemical Romance cough), so I’ll instead move my thoughts on to the modern bands who re-lit the flame, bands like Brand New, Touché Amoré, Pianos Become The Teeth; and in the UK the likes of Apologies, I Have None, We Were Promised Jetpacks and Crash Of Rhinos. All we need now is the return of Mclusky – they’ll show all these fannies a thing or two.