The Emo Revival Report, vol. 1 – Radiator Hospital

Yesterday I was at work and a co-worker asked me if I had heard Radiator Hospital yet?

This was not a query put forth in the confident-to-the-point-of-challenging tone of music snobbery but almost sheepish.  When I asked him what their deal was, he proceeded to tell me that they “apparently have some connection to Philly” (always a plus in my book, since exciting new music from my home city always makes me proud to call this place home) and “they are kind of getting lumped into this ‘new emo‘ thing” before going on to say that one song that keeps going through his head and he thinks he is into it and he wanted to know what I thought.  So he put on their record Something Wild and I was immediately drawn in.
While listening to the record we had a great conversation about the resurgence of the once-reviled genre that has been garnering respect from an Internet-based musical press that has spent the last decade keeping their distance at all costs.  Last year’s Village Voice article Emo is Dead, Long Live Emo: 30 Bands Making it Safe to Hurt Again seems to have broken open the door to make music critics feel safe appreciating this style of music again as well.
And I say that this is all for the better.  Not every passionate/introspective young songwriter can be a genius like today’s birthday boy and many of them end up making punk/hardcore hybrids that it is not only unfair, but journalistically irresponsible to dismiss simply because of its stylistic qualities.

Could it be that this revival that is just a play on the aging hipster generation’s longing for youth and sing-along-able records that offer themselves to fist pumps and rolled down windows on summer days a little better than Interpol, Radiohead and Animal Collective?  Perhaps.

Radiator Hospital's Sam Cook-Parrott
Radiator Hospital’s Sam Cook-Parrott

Is it even a revival or were the rest of us just too busy following musical trends to give it much credit until the tastemakers allowed us to? Certainly, and I feel for the teenagers who have been following these bands since their house- and basement-shows who will now be learning the difficult lesson of their favorite band “selling out”.  Trust me, kids – we all had to learn it, and half the time your favorite band is just taking what is offered to them; a chance to make music for a living.  Don’t resent them for it! Learn to appreciate their growing success along with them and hope they don’t start to suck (but even if they do, you still have their early catalog to love).  And what is it that makes selling out such a difficult thing to deal with as a music fan but the loss of connection, the severing of the “they are mine” chord in the light of growing exposure.

Which leads me back to Radiator Hospital (as the above digression is a paraphrase of the conversation I participated in with my co-worker yesterday).  Radiator Hospital is essentially the singer/songwriter project of one Sam Cook-Parrott which is brought to full pop-punk/emo potential with a full band with Cook-Parrott possessing the charisma to make both iterations immediately engaging. The LP that my co-worker played for me, Something Wild, draws from the same well of emotional honesty and appears fully formed as the rightful heir of the proud Emo tag (Get Up Kids, Against Me, Texas is the Reason, Piebald and so on). The Radiator Hospital bandcampt page proves Cook-Parrot to be a prolific creator and I look forward to exploring his output more fully and eventually seeing him live (when is your next Philly show, RH?).   Cook-Parrott’s songwriting style reminds me of the indisputable talent-borrows-genius-steals ingenuity of Morrissey, collaging open-source melodrama sound bytes, pulling freely from any and every bombastic proclamation that “more original” writers avoid like the plague and making something exquisitely his own out of all the trash by writing songs with narratives that occur in real time and, like real life, sometimes a cliché is the best way to express a feeling as your experience moves on to something new before your heart has time to process what just occurred.  On Something Wild Cook-Parrott – like all the best songwriters before him – finds inspiration in both the mundane and monumental moments of relationships, and communicates hope and pain as well as anyone out there today.   With a distinct voice, urgent delivery, and ability to craft catchy-as-hell pop songs Sam Cook-Parrott is a talent to pay attention to as I am assuming that he will be making quality music for a long time to come.

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