Often grouped in with divisive late 90’s emo-rock acts Texas Is the Reason, Jimmy Eat World, Get Up Kids, Saves the Day, and countless others, The Promise Ring are sort of misunderstood -- they are first and foremost a pop band. Davey van Bohlen is even on record as saying that they had no idea 30° Everywhere was going to come out so ...emo, so they came in to the recording of Nothing Feels Good with the intentions of making one of the poppiest records ever in order to change that perception. It definitely succeeded in being more upbeat, but it wasn’t quite enough for Davey, and a few years later they recorded quite possibly one of the poppiest records on the planet in Very Emergency.
It might have been pop-overkill, because there’s no getting around the obvious emo-core intentions of Vermont; a side project created by van Bohlen soon after Very Emergency’s release in the fall of ‘99. All those indulgent lyrics on troubled relationship Davey van Bohlen had bottled up for the aesthetic purposes of the Promise Ring are unleashed here on Living Together in all their self-loathing glory. They’re accompanied by sappy acoustic guitars, weepy arpeggio guitar leads, and the occasional software string instrument via keyboards.
Living Together has survived in my collection for over a decade, moving from apartment to apartment and city to city. However it’s showing its age, no longer holding up all that well. I’ll always have an affinity for Davey’s music, but Vermont is an example of both emo’s immaturity, and my immature tastes in music as I was approaching my twenties. It’s a good thing van Bohlen kept the Promise Ring churning in the right direction, by doing so he was able to use his little known side project as a means for indulgent escapism. The title track will continue to travel with me however; sure it has all the qualities listed above, and I’m pretty sure the drums are probably produced by some generic Yamaha keyboard, but the melody is too damn good to ignore.
“You look so happy now
It’s true, you really do
You look so happy now
I would hate to be compared to you”