When it comes to emo, I like all the stuff that runs with the pack, but not necessarily what runs in its center. In other words, I like everything that gets swept along with the genre’s associations– Hot Water Music, Sorority Noise, Modern Baseball– but I rarely spin American Football, Foxing, or Tiny Moving Parts. Great Wight is another of those bands, one that could tour with emo bands, or sad-sack pop punk bands and straddle labels enough to spark arguments for the rest of their career. The truth is, Great Wight write catchy, confessional punk jams with an afro/queer focus. Their album, The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life is a tribute to punk rock’s continued (but under-realized) foundation as a genre for outsiders, as well as a showcase to Great Wight’s expert, emotive songwriting.
What captured me immediately were how easily the words formed melodies, maintaining an intimate and conversational tone, while still being musical. There’s something so effortless about the composition across The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life that you can’t help but feel you’ve already belted them out at show by the time the proverbial needle lifts off the last track. In this sense, they remind me of Sorority Noise, who have always excelled at that sort of easy, natural sounding cadence. Using this songwriting mode, vocalist Erik Garlington, talks about depression, the scene, being black, being atheist, and being queer. This may sound too specific to relate to on a larger scale, but as a straight white male, I found it had an immediate honest quality that made me think of the unsettling openness of early Against Me! It’s great stuff, that appeals to a common experience, all of the minutiae hanging under an umbrella labeled ‘Being Different.’
The songs are great all around, from opener “Curtain’s Up! It’s Showtime,” a beacon for like minds that cements a lot of Great Wight’s musical elements early on, to ending track “The Come Up,” a sort of spunky cowboy chord send-off where Garlington sings, “I hope I never have to write these songs again.” Good stuff, from start to finish. Authentic and vulnerable; sometimes confrontational in songs like “Not Black Enough,” a standout track that begins with “hey man, we need to talk,” and goes on to talk about the black experience, and what it does and doesn’t entail.
One of my favorite songs on the album was “Starring Michael Fassbender.” For how much punk likes to talk about sexuality, the genre clams up like an eleven year old having the ‘changing body’ talk when it comes to sex. “Starring Michael Fassbender” is presented as a sultry, unabashed, slithering conversation with a lover. There are so many great lines on this track, that I could probably quote the whole song, but it’s easy to imagine it as an intimate moment where two people begin to reach out of their repression and acknowledge, “what makes your back sweat and your fingers wet,” “….the things that won’t make your parents proud.”
The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life is a stunning debut. When an original voice like this comes out of nowhere, with such a developed songwriting talent to boot, one has to take notice. Great Wight has the potential to be spoken of in the same breath as all the other great emo bands of the day, and it’s hard to imagine a day when they won’t have just as rabid fans, packed into a club and hell-bent on transcendence. These are words meant to be sung back by the crowd, melody and lyrics joined in the holiest communion– the completion of a conversation.