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Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and EMO Paperback – November 15, 2003

3.3 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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  • Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and EMO
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

No one has ever gone broke underestimating the American teenager's capacity for angst--until now, perhaps, when, as Greenwald documents, the major commercial music purveyors pay scant attention to the youngsters buying hundreds of thousands of copies of albums by bands like Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard [Confessional], even though the rest of the music industry is in the doldrums. Those bands create a sort of personal music, low on bombast and the antithesis of overproduced; they aren't boy bands and Britney Spears knockoffs. Emo, as their music is known, combines the thoughtfulness of folk with the sensibilities and DIY ethos of punk. Emo bands appeal with introspective lyrics rather than the "see my clothes, see my butt" treacle major labels promote. Sailing under the hype radar, emo is the current manifestation of music that is perfect for the young; that is, unknown and inaccessible to adults. A valuable resource for young listeners and adults who want to know their music; get it before emo goes the corporate way of "alternative" rock. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

“This thoughtful, inquisitive book is, like the genre itself, really all about the fans...It's Catcher In The Rye with guitars.” ―Blender Magazine
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (November 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312308639
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312308636
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #334,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jamie S. Rich on December 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
As a writer myself, and one often accused of being too obscure with his musical references, I had no choice but to enter NOTHING FEELS GOOD with a bit of an open mind, knowing that Andy Greenwald faced a challenge with me and that I had to extend him the same courtesy I would want extended to me. Greenwald was writing about bands I couldn't care less about, and some I openly hate. I didn't own a single record by any of the groups featured. He had a tough job ahead of him.
So, it's a real testament to Greenwald's abilities as a writer that I was completely sucked in. A foreknowledge of bands like Jawbreaker or Thursday is not required, because Greenwald is going to explain them to you. He is going to tell you what the music is like and contextualize it, put it in a framework that will hip you to why these bands have so many devoted fans. Sure, you can hem and haw about the name "emo"--but the author does too. It's a term for a subculture that doesn't want to be tagged or codified, and it's a subject that is wrestled with by this book. And once we get past that, Greenwald cracks it open and unveils the positives of a movement that often gets derided, revealing why it works for the people it works for and its place in our modern age.
If there is anything to complain about when it comes to NOTHING FEELS GOOD, it's that Greenwald does his job TOO well. He made me think every one of the bands discussed was fantastic. Sadly, I sampled a lot of it, and for the most part, it failed to live up to the wonderful images Greenwald created in my head. However, his electrifying portrait of Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba was quite seductive, and I couldn't shake it. It pushed me to approach the material fresh, and now I am a fan and have sought out whatever I could find by the band.
And isn't that the sort of reaction music writing should inspire?
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Format: Paperback
I found Nothing Feels Good on a rainy day last June, wandering around a Barnes and Noble in suburban Maryland looking for a friend's birthday present. My friend likes swing music, so I bought it for myself instead, deciding I needed to "try something new" - even though at the time I despised emo, equating it with depressed teenagers whining about their pissant little problems.

I'm not too familiar with Andy Greenwald, but he must be a good writer if he could convince me to give emo - and Dashboard Confessional, which until then I absolutely hated - a second chance. By the end of that summer, my friends declared that "the emo book" had sucked me in, and maybe it did. For me, Nothing Feels Good, which includes a number of interviews Greenwald has with self-styled teenage "emo kids" helped me to feel a little more comfortable with myself and introduced me to a lot of music I otherwise wouldn't have learned about. (I even sang "Hands Down" by Dashboard for a show at my school after reading the book.) Greenwald not only looks at emo, but also at the psychology behind it - the male chauvinism and competitiveness that you might not notice the first time you see a skinny white kid behind a mic singing about his ex-girlfriend - and how the mainstream has taken on the effects of emo and how emo has taken on the mainstream.

If you're just being introduced to emo - until reading the book, all I knew of emo was from the pseudo-punks that ran around the hallways of my high school - you might think Greenwald's assertion that "emo cannot be defined" is a cop-out, and that the three chapters he devotes to Chris Carrabba, lead singer of Dashboard Confessional, may be a little tedious. However, if you're at a party and a friend asks "so, what is this 'emo' I keep hearing about?
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Format: Paperback
Andy Greenwald's "Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers and Emo" is a fascinating journalistic investigation into the hard-to-define musical genre "emo." Chronicling the growth of the musical movement from its birth in the early 80s until 2003 when the book was published, Greenwald has composed a piece of rock journalism similar in style to the works of Chuck Klosterman or even the later works of Lester Bangs.

Greenwald has a fascination with misery, as sadness is a quintessential part of the emo definition. Greenwald fleshes out the main idea of emo as punk-rock based music made as an artist's catharsis that teenagers latch onto and associate emotionally with.

To make sure the reader gets the point, Greenwald dedicates almost a third of the book to the most depressing of all emo acts, Dashboard Confessional. The nearly reverential tone that he uses in describing the de facto leader of the movement emphasizes the main point of this book: music, emotion and memories are inextricably tied together in the minds of teenagers.

Even though Greenwald does analyze the social trend of emo through case studies on bands, the best parts of the book come when he practices his bill-paying craft and enthusiastically describes the bands and labels associated with the genre. From the absurdly cocky Vagrant Records to the painfully humble Jimmy Eat World, Greenwald shows many ways that the confessional candor which embodies the emo movement can manifest itself. The various angles that Greenwald uses to approach the point keep this from being a tiresomely repetitive read.

It's when Greenwald diverges from the music side of emo that the book goes south.
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