As any Zelda-coiffed or fauxhawked scene-ager can tell you, emo is a big freakin' deal. It's a major market force, a co-opted zeitgeist of approachable, punk-derived pop that harnesses a kid's need for confessional lyrics and melody, and weds it with sufficient scenester cred to set it apart from Top 40 schlock.
In 2003, Andy Greenwald, a columnist for Spin, authored Nothing Feels Good, a book that outlined emo music's nascence among the nation's youth. Greenwald sketches the scene as almost singularly youth-oriented, a rock-music tribe that gains more new fans and produces more bands than most other genres today.
Out of -- and onto -- this scene swoop Lux Courageous. Lux brings a polished, latter-day amalgam of the genre's history, with on-their-sleeves influences from The Promise Ring and The Get Up Kids to Jimmy Eat World and Bright Eyes.
Starting out as a Long Island acoustic guitar duo in 2001, founders PJ Tepe and Adam Loporto invited Chris Valentino's drums and Jani Zubkovs' bass in time to record The Lion, a self-released debut EP that garnered critical praise, industry attention and much emo-girl swooning throughout the Northeast. High-profile regional dates with bands like Brand New, The Starting Line and Dashboard Confessional followed.
Signing with Triple Crown in 2003, they added pianist Justin Williams and headed into the studio to track their first full-length, Reasons That Keep the Ground Near. While clearly referential, Reasons runs the gamut from sad-sack balladry to effervescent swagger.
Songs like "Concrete (Broadway)" cement the band's reputation as a reliable purveyor of hook-driven and emotive fare. And "Hey ... It Just Feels Better," with its bubbly "whoa-oh-oh" chorus, approaches charting-status pop.
Lux may trod an oft-traveled path, but their arrangements are inventive enough to shrug off inklings of replication. The solid musicianship of textured guitar work countering bouncy, expressive drums drives Reasons. A round, cadenced bass works beautifully with Loporto's colorful guitar, and Williams' key punching adds deft and swirling melodic flourishes that enhance the rhythmic subtleties.
But Lux's fans are hot for more than just the music. Emo kids are notorious suckers for sad songs of relationships gone awry, which is why teenagers comprise the majority of any emo crowd. Hormones and histrionics convince them the singer is on their side.
On this count, Lux delivers. Tepe's voice is appropriately desperate, alternately cracking and soaring as he waxes woeful, and he's got plenty of pining melody to make his words the performance's centerpiece. His aural portraits of confusion, pent-up sexuality and unrequited adoration are married with a mixture of smart wordplay ("You can only run on those killer legs of yours for so long,") and loads of ambiguity.
"I surrender/hold me now."
"Who will you bring back to bed tonight?"
With lyrics like these, it's easy to see why teens go weak in the knees over Lux Courageous.
-- Aaron Retka
Lux Courageous with Slow Coming Day, Elseworth, Eyes Caught Fire and A Novel Form
The Darkside, 2106 E. Platte Ave.
Tuesday, July 5, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $5; call 635-0657 or visit www.luxcourageous.com.