Why Did We Ever Love The Promise Ring?

Dec 18th, 2007 // 35 Comments

A: Because they were (sometimes) great. Time and their own later wack long-players have left a quasi-shameful residue around them, but I am unashamed. (Get me started on Cap’n Jazz and it’s like my grandfather rambling about wartime hijinx after a few Milwaukee’s Best.) My sister and I still reminisce fondly over our ’90s emo peak, a Promise Ring/Jets To Brazil/Burning Airlines show we bore witness to in Philly in ’98. I even owned a Promise Ring t-shirt! (It had little bunnies on it! Lemmy Kilmister should come to my house and beat me with his wart for that fact alone.) This is “Why Did We Ever Meet?” off 1997′s Nothing Feels Good, a great pop leap that still required a few more years (and a heaping helping of ProTools tweakery/eyeliner) before taking its rightful place in the modern rock radio firmament alongside “leftover Brit-pop ballads” and “dudes still on Eddie Vedder’s jock.” (And here you all thought I wasn’t serious about the “12 Days Of 90s Emo.”)

The Promise Ring – “Why Did We Ever Meet?” [YouTube]

  1. musicquizking

    Everyone always goes on and on about this album but I think VERY EMERGENCY is a better record.

  2. thearcanemodel

    yes! after the talk of 90s emo yesterday, i was hoping something like this might come along. i was nigh on obsessed with this album for part of my 17th year…just effortlessly catchy, less forced than very emergency (agree to disagree MusicQuizKing).

    and i still listen to burning airlines all the damn time. although my live experiences with them involved the dismemberment plan (!) and lifter puller (!), neither of whom i adequately appreciated at the time.

    related but not: do either of you idolator-ators have that karate “cherry coke” 7-inch? between you and the “you shall know our discography” guy (who blows my mind on semi-weekly basis), i am really missing my old vinyl. . .

  3. thearcanemodel

    although “very emergency” gets automatic points for the jenny toomey backing vocals.

  4. the rich girls are weeping

    You guys! Stop making me love you even more than I already do! Ah, early emo. That shit was the best. BEST.

    Promise Ring/Jets To Brazil/Burning Airlines show — once upon a time, that was like, sheer aural opium for me. *sigh* Jets to motherfucking Brazil, people.

  5. futurehorse

    Dear Idolator:
    You officially made my mind melt with goodness today. Thank you.

  6. Weezy F Baby

    i honestly think i’m the only person in the world who liked (and continues to listen to and enjoy!) wood/water

  7. futurehorse

    “On the first day of 90s emo my true love gave to me,
    an extra small Jade Tree hoody”

  8. SuperUnison

    @thearcanemodel: LFTR PLLR: I am so goddamn jealous. Since we’re on 90s emo/Lifter Puller does anyone else here think that “Persciption Sunglasses” is secretly one of the best songs of that genre even though the band got exponentially less emo after it?

    Anyhow, this is definiteley my favorite TPR song. That surging riff at the beginning is fucking perfect. Chunks of whiplash before the chorus. The words recurring on themselves like a nervous heart, spitting half syllables up in awkward conversation. Lyrically; these guys, Cap’n Jazz, and Braid nailed the expressive use of homophones to the wall.

  9. ozacrot

    I hate on emo with the best (worst) of ‘em, but I love – LOVE – the Promise Ring. Back in the days when I dogmatically avoided capital letters, I had their full discography (sans Wood/Water) on my computer, replete with periods after each song title.

    You might think it’s rough preferring Very Emergency, but try defending 30 Degrees Everywhere!

  10. Jerkwheat

    Sweet fancy Moses I love me some Promise Ring

    but why the hate on the latter catalog? Very Emergency is solid and Wood/Water isn’t that< bad


  11. Anonymous

    This was definitely one of the best “emo” albums, although I hardly see what is emo about it since it’s basically a pop record. Just fit in with that crowd in those times I guess. Anybody still show nostalgia for old school pop punk or am I showing my age?

  12. pissy elliott

    Me and a friend JUST had an argument about this!

  13. pissy elliott

    My lolcat didn’t show up. It says “I LOVE THIS THREAD SO MUCH.” My sentiments will have to be written in verse.

  14. PopIsNotDead

    Maritime did their latest record (Heresy and the Hotel Choir) at our place. Awesome guys, and Davey’s songwriting chops are better now than they ever were. I did my best not to drool “I looooved TPR!”

  15. Lucas Jensen

    I liked this stuff okay and tried to make a go of it, but it never stuck. I absolutely abhorred Braid and saw the Get-Up Kids put on one of the worst shows I have ever seen in my entire life.

    And good Lord, just listening to this now…well, it doesn’t really get better with age, does it? This might be aging worse than Pearl Jam’s Ten!

    My emo was Sunny Day and that’s about that.

  16. Lucas Jensen

    And I thought that Jets to Brazil and Burning Airlines were so far inferior to the leaders’ previous bands that I couldn’t help but be crushingly disappointed. Jawbreaker/box anyone?

  17. Lucas Jensen

    Listening again, I can say that I doubt this was ProTools-ed because the vocals are sort of not in key and the drumming has some issues coming out of the first chorus. Which is a good thing. It’s natural. That wouldn’t fly on a modern “emo” record.

    My intern just asked me if I was listening to Sum 41.

  18. amyk

    Did anyone see the Get Up Kids/Superchunk tour? That was bizarre. The peeps from ‘chunk kept on heckling the emo kids. It was hysterical, but i’ve never felt so old.

    For some reason I missed most of Emo and just really started listening to TPR because I loved the last Maritime album (We The Vehicles). Davy’s lisp is really bad live – but the songs are still damn good.

  19. thearcanemodel

    @Lucas Jensen: oh for sure, my first love is the ‘box, but seriously, i think that almost everything that mr. robbins has done sense has been nearly as good.

    @amyk: yes, that was SO off-putting. and when i saw them in chicago, mac had a sore throat, which made the crowd even more unforgiving. (although rebecca gates came out to sing “iron on”!) to be sure they weren’t touring behind their best album at the time, but those kids. . .it was surreal. it still blows my little mind that one of the get up kids is in spoon now. times change, i guess.

  20. thearcanemodel

    “since,” rather. in case anybody was wondering, i’m not related to our current president.

  21. umlaut75

    @thearcanemodel: Uh, I have that. Best thing that band (was that Geoff Farina?) ever did. Sorry, I don’t have it digitally.

  22. thearcanemodel

    @umlaut75: well, that whole first album was pretty stellar. “is it me, or caffeine?” i ask myself this daily.

    man, that video seems so quaint and goofy and sweet now. and not just because davey von bohlen had hair.

  23. Al Shipley

    Man, Idolator hasn’t been such a 90′s clearing house since the last days of Raftery. I couldn’t even stomach the Promise Ring back then, though, ugh.

  24. Paperboy 2000

    1. I’d be a little shocked if they were using ProTools. Non-linear audio editing in 1997 was very rare for ANY indie band.

    2. Does anyone remember More Than Music Fest in Ohio where The Promise Ring’s old bassist was accused of rape while they were on stage and it caused this crazy witch hunt and threw the whole festival off track and caused much hand-wringing? Oddly enough, he wasn’t in the band much longer. That’d be so huge in this day and age with your fancy gossip blogs and your Pac Man video games and your Dan Fogelberg boxed sets!

  25. TheMojoPin

    It’s incrediby shallow of me, but as soon as someone pointed out the lisp, it became all I could hear.

  26. themeparkexperience

    I was not at the More Than Music Fest, but here’s what I have heard after spending four years of my life researching a book where the Promise Ring has a chapter devoted to them:

    Scott Beschta was accused of rape — which was later retracted by his accuser — and word got around at the show. Boy Sets Fire stopped their set to address the issue and a lot of people were pissed at the Promise Ring. 3/4s of the band had already left (I believe they played the previous day), but Jason Gnewikow was still there and was asked a lot of questions, to say the least.

    Following this, there was a minor, albeit vocal backlash against the band. They even received a broken 7″ in the mail from a former fan.

    And contrary to speculation, this was NOT why Beschta was kicked out of the band. His personality differences within the band made his departure a long time coming. In the end, he wanted out and they wanted him out.

    That’s what I’ve heard.

  27. Paperboy 2000

    I was there…that’s pretty much what went down….
    There was also an issue with Felix von Havoc of Code 13 during the same fest.

    It was quite raperiffic!

    Fwiw, Scotty always seemed like the nicest one of the group…

    Promise Ring got a whole chapter?

  28. themeparkexperience

    @Paperboy 2000:

    Yup, the Promise Ring got a whole chapter.

  29. infinit Loop

    one of the best shows i was ever at was promise ring with texas is the reason. that was right around when 30 degrees came out, maybe. effing great. although if i could have seen them with jets and burning airlines i probably woulda shat myself.

  30. themeparkexperience

    I saw the Promise Ring with Jets to Brazil, Sarge and the Gloria Record in fall ’98. I went crazy and I was that dude up front. A life-changing show, one of many for me.

  31. Midwest_Product

    I’m sorry to be that guy, but this song is actually called “Why Did Ever We Meet?”

  32. Midwest_Product

    Actually, I’m not sorry. I love being that guy.

  33. lordedge

    That MTM event as you describe it did not happen.

  34. jc

    what is the book?

  35. Chrstian

    I personally find all but the last release by The Promise Ring to be top notch musicianship. The only reason I don’t approve of Wood/Water is because I never listened to it yet. I bet you I’d like it, too. “30 Degrees Everywhere” will always be my favorite, but that’s not to say they started sucking after their sophomore release. Of all the 90′s emo bands, TPR was the most fun.

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