Various Artists – The Emo Philips Diaries: From Tampa to Eternity

Various Artists
The Emo Philips Diaries: From Tampa to Eternity

All in all, this is one of the most interesting compilations I think I’ve ever had the chance to review. If it’s not obvious enough, New Granada Records is playing on the success of Deep Elm’s Emo Diaries with this disc, identifying the comp with goofball stand-up comic Emo Philips (“My Mom told me when God made me, he broke the mold. I think some of it is starting to grow back, though.”).
From Tampa to Eternity, however, isn’t just another mish-mash of random bands tossed together. What New Granada presents here is a 19-song dissertation of sorts that spans the various tones of the Tampa music scene from 1993 to 2001. The liner notes even feature a list of the personnel from each of the 19 bands showcased here, showing every band each person has played in and basically creating a great big incestuous representation of the Tampa scene.
Sure, it sounds like something you’d expect to be released locally to Tampa, as this disc basically qualifies as a history lesson of sorts for musicians in that area. Surprisingly, though, there is more than enough material here to make The Emo Philips Diaries worth a few listens to even a Midwesterner like myself.
Closure‘s “Save Your Day” is just a devastating piece of listening along the lines of Knapsack and Samiam, as the band spits out a catchy beat and snappy riffs with arena rock results. This track is one of those ’emo guilty pleasures’ that still sticks in your head three days after you’ve heard it. Chester‘s “2 Molecules” (from 1996) is another nice little melodic number, combining an obvious Sunny Day Real Estate influence with the basic Deep Elm sound. Pohgoh‘s “Resolution” is another quality track, thanks to the solid female vocals and emo/alt-guitar pop backing.
The album-opening track by the Pseudo Heroes is a nice little two-minute emo-pop jaunt that’s upbeat and energetic, with a cool lead-guitar fill to boot. Tomorrow‘s “Rally Song” sounds like a really emo version of Snapcase (yes, that is a good thing), which would have come off even more brilliantly than it sounds if the track hadn’t been a paltry 64 seconds long. Still, it rocks, royally. Everglade‘s “Breaking” (from 1993) is even better, sounding like a not-so-distant cousin of Helmet or Wish for Eden.
Seeing as this is a Florida-based compilation, I expected a lot of the requisite emo / screamo / melodic / pop-punk stuff, and while I wasn’t disappointed, I was also pleasantly surprised by a few of the other sounds this comp has to offer. The Dakota Coastline, for example, showcases an emo sound with a few ‘country jangles’ in the guitar work on one of the album’s standout tracks, “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.” This song pretty much answered a question I’d been asking myself for a few months now – ‘What would Paul Westerberg or Ryan Adams sound like writing emo stuff?’
The Maccabees (featuring the same singer from Pohgoh) deliver “Homefront,” which dishes out some pretty acoustic folk/country. Along those same lines, Thinkingdayrally‘s “Rust Away” gives off a major alt-country vibe on a bed of piano and delicate, pseudo-twangy guitars. Tracks by Versailles and Showmen’s Rest, however, showcase a more droning, dreamy, shoegazing sound.
That’s not to say that there aren’t a few clunkers in here though. The fuzz/scream/grind nature of Scrog‘s “Speak” shows potential, but then grows tired over an almost seven minute sprawl. Omega Man‘s “Definition” is a bit too much on the speed/thrash metal side of hardcore, and the remix of the Isobella song featured here really just spaces out a bit too much. Still, it’s not as if the clunkers are here for no reason. After all, this collection is sort of a historical record of the Tampa scene. I’m assuming that the bands on here were well-known or influential in the area, so it’s only fitting to have them represented in some way.
And it’s cool to read the liner notes to see all the band member connections. For example, John Allen played guitar in both Omega Man and Scrog, which makes sense. However, he also currently sings and plays keyboards/piano for Thinkingdayrally, a band with a decidedly different sound than Allen’s other bands. Info like that really enhances my listening experience for some reason. Maybe I’m just a music nerd, but to me, this compilation is great for what it is – a musical collage recording the evolution of a music community. There’s definitely enough good stuff here to make The Emo Philips Diaries worth a listen. Plus, if all else fails, there’s a wicked slick pic of Philips himself on the cover. Damn, that guy cracks me up.