As fourth-wave emo continues to outgrow its underground roots (just yesterday Pitchfork posted an in-depth review of the World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die’s Billboard-charting debut, Whenever, If Ever), now is a pretty good time to jump in and take a listen to the bands that helped bring the scene to life toward the end of the aughts. I mentioned a handful of those acts in my recent B Side feature on the sound’s revival, but there are plenty I had to leave out—such as 1994!, a two-piece from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The band melds spazzy midwestern emo with AC/DC guitars, creating a scruffy and chaotic style I call gutter-emo. There are plenty of groups in the scene who aspire to create messiness that’s cathartic, but few come close to matching the fury, intensity, and passion of 1994!
The group has been kicking around for several years (its debut album, Thank You Arms and Fingers, came out in 2009) and was contemporaneous with some of fourth-wave emo’s heaviest hitters, including Algernon Cadwallader and Snowing. Those two bands have broken up, but 1994! has carried on and evolved. This year’s Fuck It takes the band’s gutter sound to an extreme—1994! recorded it with an iPhone and a “shitty” microphone, which makes the songs sound raw and tough as hell. At times the band makes radical departures from its well-honed aggressive thrashing, and that’s the case with “From Decay,” which is today’s 12 O’Clock Track.
The band strips its sound to the bone on “From Decay”; there’s no drumming, zero caterwauling, and the fuzzy riff is occasionally barely audible. It’s a quiet tune that pulverizes better than most of the band’s loudest material, with searing, introspective lyrics about grappling with personal shortcomings (“So I ask myself, what’s the point / When I can barely stand the sound of my own voice”) sung in a sweet and earnest style with just a hint of gruffness. Fuck It is meant to be played as a single piece of music instead of a sequence of songs, but “From Decay” is so good I highly recommend playing it both on its own and as part of the rest of the album. Stream the tune below; Fuck It is available as a name-your-price download from Bandcamp, and 1994! is releasing it on vinyl sometime in the fall.