Emo-tional Rescue

The Promise Ring endure some slings and arrows on the road to recovery.




Showbox, 628-3151, $15

6 p.m. Sat., Oct. 5

SEPT. 24, 2002. The Promise Ring should be chilling with Larry Flynt at Hustler HQ, savoring the fruits of celebrity: supermodel bukkake, speedballs, smacking around 4-year-old girls who "get out of line" at department stores. Instead, they're in Milwaukee on an atheism-inducing 51-degree afternoon, sound checking for a show that will benefit a national suicide hot line.


APRIL 23, 2002. The flat-out ass second coming of Weezer graces magazine covers nationwide, spearheading the flat-out ass "emo revolution." Deeply personal and articulate singles from Dashboard Confessional, Jimmy Eat World, and Saves the Day are stealing valuable airtime from heretofore immortal Linkin Park.

The Promise Ring, long poised to be this dubious genre's breakout sensation, release their fourth LP, Wood/Water (Anti). Considering the polished, lovelorn bar chord pop they've built a devoted following on, this record should be the equivalent of boxing Strom Thurmond. One solid follow-through, just like you practiced, and the purse is yours.

You could say Wood/Water is a startlingly mature, anguished cycle about loss and recovery. You could also say it sounds like Wilco fronted by Kermit the Frog.

Sigh. See second paragraph.

"There's two camps of people that listen to Wood/Water," drummer Dan Didier opines. "There's the camp that thinks we made a huge mistake and they'll never listen to another record again, we appalled them so greatly. Then there's another camp that got what we tried to accomplish.

"As we were making the record, we were like, 'Well, this is our career killer.' But we had to do it."

If you bravely defended the Promise Ring against numerous requests to "get off the stage, faggots" during their abbreviated 2000 tour opening for Bad Religion ("In the grand scheme of things, it was hell on earth," Didier reflects), you did so in the name of the pogo. The albums TPR were drawing most from, Nothing Feels Good and Very Emergency, were purty, shiny pop-punk gems, soul food-flavored bubblegum. Vocalist Davey Von Bohlen, then dealing with a benign brain tumor, lisped delightful tongue-in-cheek, atlas-referencing romances over guitarist Jason Gnewikow's airtight, bouncy leads.

Wood/Water, comparatively, is hibernation. "Stop Playing Guitar" and "Say Goodbye Good" are mournful, down- tempo, and plaintive. They're well-crafted songs, ballads really. Are you standing by your Ring and listening?

"While all this [emo] stuff was exploding, we were dealing with problems at home like Davey's health issues," Didier shrugs. "People not coming to your shows, well, yeah, that kind of sucks, [but] you roll with the punches. I definitely think we're on sort of this weird downward spiral, but maybe that's just me."

For all the great white emo-core hype that stigmatizes the Promise Ring from album to album, the audience ain't exactly bed-wetter caliber. Didier is at a loss to explain recent all-ages/21-plus doubleheaders in Seattle and Baltimore where the drunks far outnumbered the wanna-be drunks.

"We never crossed over to where kids in shopping malls started wearing our shirts," he affirms. "We're not a Hot Topic band. The national bar band, I guess is what you could call us: the world-traveled bar band."


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