Swerp Records hates "twinklecore" like Rites of Spring hated "emo"

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My Dads Stunts
  • My Dad's Stunts
For the past few years I've been pretty keen on the multitude of punk groups reinventing the 90s emo sound. This movement, if you can call it that, was incubated by the DIY scene over the past five years or so, but these days it's hardly confined to the underground: Michigan screamo band La Dispute headlined Metro in the spring, Chicago emo troubadour Evan Thomas Weiss (aka Into It. Over It.) spent a chunk of the summer on the Vans Warped Tour, and Pennsylvania four-piece Title Fight (who play Reggie's on Sunday) landed on the Billboard 200 with the new Floral Green.

A couple years ago I started noticing a term jokingly applied to a swathe of bands in the scene: "twinklecore." More often I'd hear "twinkly," which aptly describes a kind of fast, precise, relatively clean guitar work that's central to many new emo bands and doubles as a scene in-joke. The concept of twinklecore spread online via a variety of punk forums and blogs—one of my favorites is a Tumblr called Twinkly Shit, run by the front man of New Jersey emo two-piece Dads. The music media outside the punk circuit recently picked up on the "twinklecore" tag, which helped it morph into a meme—and you can hardly blame people, since frankly it does sound pretty stupid.

Last week I mentioned "twinklecore-gate" in a concert preview on local band My Dad, who use plenty of twinkly guitars. My Dad's label, Swerp Records, didn't take kindly to the association.

On Monday Swerp issued a press release stating that it takes very seriously "allegations" that one of its artists might have something to do with twinklecore. The label included a list of preferred genre names:

Please use the alternatives, "Fat Metal," "Meatgaze," "Sad Jazz," "Post-Corpse," "Polish Party Anthems," "Scum," "Gargoyle Funk," "Trashy Bluegrass," "Lawsuit Bait," or "Michael Bay Presents: Post-Hardcore."

This sensitivity about the term "twinklecore" (joking or not) is awfully reminiscent of the way early emo bands got worked up about, well, the word "emo." Plenty of new bands are comfortable being called "emo" today (and obviously prefer it to "twinklecore"), but that wasn't always the case.

The term "emo" started as an in-joke in the mid-80s D.C. punk scene, a goofy description of the style that bands such as Rites of Spring, Embrace, and Beefeater developed in response to the increasingly static hardcore sound. Those groups didn't care for the term—during an Embrace show in 1986, front man Ian MacKaye railed against it onstage.

The same day that Swerp issued its press release calling for an end to "twinklecore," beloved D.C. punk label Dischord dropped a previously unreleased 1984 demo from Rites of Spring. Six Song Demo is a great document that not only shows a pretty big turning point in D.C.'s hardcore history but also the beginning of an odd strain of punk that's still going strong. The record is good regardless of what you call it, though I don't think I could get behind "Michael Bay Presents: Posthardcore."

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