Emo. Originally shorthand for emotional hardcore and practised by melodic hardcore bands like Youth of Today, Rites of Spring et al, by the beginning of the twenty first century, anything labelled emo couldn’t be further away from those origins. There was a spell in the mid 90s where alternative rock bands with a slight indie leaning were also labelled emo (the best of which were the much missed Sense Field and the short-lived Shift) and they were great, but beyond that, emo just became a lazy tag for “whining sub-goth naval gazing with floppy fringe”. Surely, somewhere in the US, Brendan Canty wonders what the hell happened?
For those old enough to (a) remember the origins of emo, (b) especially loved its 90s incarnations and (c) would like to punch Gerard Way and Matchbook Romance in their self-pitying little faces, there comes salvation from Mira – a fiery DIY emo punk band from Bremen, whom clearly still have a love for old Quicksand and Fugazi records among other things.
A solitary click of a drumstick (and not even a count in) opens ‘Trembling’, before a subsequently furious noise of post-hardcore guitar riffs and screaming creates a wall of noise. It might just seem like a bluster-over-emotion affair to begin with, but the introduction of spoken samples and a belatedly more melodic riff steer things firmly upon a retro course. Both the style of riff and guitar tone call to mind cult works from the early 90s by Into Another and Quicksand, while the impassioned voice throws out words that sound as if the band’s frontman is amid a world of aching confusion. In barely a minute and a half, it seems it’s over as quickly as it began, but the band are just warming up.
With a clanging alt-rock riff for a heart, ‘Among Stars’ slowly builds a pleasing melody around a fantastic melodic bassline, only to then have a dual vocal bring everything down like a musical house of cards. For the first verse, the strong musical structure is genuinely threatened by a shouty voice and angry, but somehow pleading voice alternately. Once you’ve attuned yourselves, the tough and retro music is good enough alone to carry the track and the slow, and slightly atonal approach works well enough – provided, that is, you’ve still got a fondness for old Fugazi records and a Mission of Burma sense of artiness… More of the great basswork comes to the fore throughout ‘Abyssal’, as a darker melody crawls from the depths. After setting the scene, various clanging guitars force the bass into the back and a combination of crashes and screams comes across like an experiment by Superluxury. It’s with this number the truest Mira sound dominates and the post-hardcore screaming is at its most appealing, while a tough drum line and a heavy bass push everything even more towards something heavier. There are no hooks or choruses, just anger and riffs…but what riffs they are, especially those representing the bottom end sound. A few minutes of sharp riffing as an emotional outlet and it’s all over.
…And that’s it. Just as things are getting interesting, the band decides that’s enough. They present this EP much like a short, hard stab in the ribs and then exit. Although far too short and sadly lacking that timeless 7” release (very limited CD-Rs are the closest things get to the physical), this first musical step feels like an important one, with Mira very much going backwards to take emo forwards once more. After several years of emo being represented by lightweight effeminate crybabies, this is all very welcome noise-making of the highest order.