Great Wight, The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life / September 2017
RIYL: Citizen, Jeff Rosenstock
Great Wight is emo as fuck and The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life is probably the most important emo record of the decade. Honestly, I haven’t heard anything as compelling since Glocco Mara’s Just Married in 2012.
Let me back up. Emo as a whole is a hard genre to LOVE. You are either a rabid fan or harsh critic and I have to admit, I don’t have a great track record. In middle school I found a tattered copy of Dashboard Confessional’s The Places You Have Come to Fear The Most that I will admit got some heavy rotation. It also heavily tainted my view of the genre as acoustic whinery, and for years emo was totally verboten. It wasn’t until 2006 when Brand New’s The Devil and God… totally caught my imagination that I began to take emo “seriously” again.
Still there have been very few emo records in the last 12 years that I’ve found worth my time, and I think that The Suburbs have Ruined my Life perfectly highlights why. Emo has, from its inception, been the whitest of punk sub-genres. There have always been rich heritage of Black, Latinx, Asian, and LGBTQ+ people in hardcore and traditional forms of punk. However, when it comes to stripping down, eschewing the politics and concentrating one’s own emotional landscape, it seems that the field has been almost exclusively reserved for Straight White Men.
Why is that, I wonder? Whatever the reason, when I first listened to Erik Garlington, the lead singer of Great Wight, sing about forging his own complex identity, I knew I had found something special. Just take a look at the lyrics from “Not Black Enough”:
“I’m Black and most days I’m proud to be
Proud of our culture
Proud of our History
But that doesn’t solely define me
I refuse to let my skin color define me
Or whatever else you want to confine me”
Now, I am Tejano-Mestizo, but the first time I heard this verse I just about curled into a shell and wept for hours. It is a line that perfectly encapsulates being a POC in America.
If the entire album were songs about race and identity, I’d be happy, but this is no one-note record. Each track paints a vivid picture of modern American life. “Germany, 1991” examines the maelstrom that surrounds being an active member of the military. That alone is as about as unique a perspective for a punk song that I think I’ve ever heard.
“The American Way” lambastes misogynists, racists, and homophobes in in the catchiest way possible.
The narrator of “It turns out there aren’t that many perks to being a wallflower” attends a Tiny Moving Parts show and has a revelation on the nature of friendship. (A small aside, I saw Tiny Moving Parts play a house show in Austin, Texas, in 2014. There I met a bass player and afterwards started a band. It was a totally lifechanging experience but for my money, this record trounces TMP’s 2018 release, Swell, by a mile.)
Track after track, the record just delivers in the way it portrays POC, women’s rights issues, punk identity, and queer identity. All of which has been almost entirely absent in emo since its inception. The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life is pitch perfect and ready to be airlifted into every suburban teenager’s bedroom across America.
The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life is currently available on Bandcamp, Spotify, and YouTube. The group has been performing frequently in NYC.