The Steez of Skramz
Screamo is dead. It is the Fiddler's Green of liberal arts college dropouts who now screenprint merch for Warped Tour side-stage bands and smell like their cats. Where the sky is the color of test presses, the pots of vegan chili are never-ending, and apoplexy, histrionics and veiled earnestness mix to create that ambrosia of nostalgia: skramz. A place where all conversations begin "Have you heard (Funeral Diner, The Kodan Armada, Yaphet Kotto)?" and the answer is always, "Oh man, I love 'em! Do you have their split with (Welcome the Plague Year, Gospel, Envy)?"
Over the achingly wistful yet exhilarative hours of reminiscence, you'll find you've mated for life, like a male anglerfish latching on to a female to become a living sperm sac (you're both the sperm sac, forever supplying the other with Mediafire links to discographies of broken-up and long-inconsequential acts).
What, exactly, is the steez of skramz? Well, DIY yourself up a chair and put your butt in it, 'cause it's go time for learnin'. In short: Screamo is chockablock with bugaboo. The terror of speed, the weight of distortion and the dread of dissonance converge into a minute-long fit of skinny-guy violence. Or it can be sad and beautiful like a pretty twee girl playing a ukulele, maybe? Other times it can be technical and proggy enough for your guildmate's uncle (Hi, Dad!). Mostly, they're manic blurs so terse you cross your fingers in the hope that Last.fm can scrobble them. Just straight-up solid waveform bricks of kids gettin' upset.
To make a comparison to other genres: Screamo is more syncopated than hardcore while lacking a tough-guy mentality or the posi taint of Krishna consciousness; slower than grindcore and with a feminist bent; and with fewer pissypant conniptions and rawer nerves than emo. But the true essence of screamo is in the name. These castrati of crust, these banshees of basement shows, they communicate in high-pitched yelps, shrieks and caterwauls. The logical conclusion was reached by ... Of Death, but bear in mind that shit's nigh-unlistenable even to fanatics.
The lyrical content of any given screamo song can run the gamut from bafflingly amusing (Jeromes Dream) to Nation of Ulysses-inspired pseudo-politics (Orchid) to nauseatingly earnest (The Assistant) to my-God-were-you-homeschooled? (Reversal of Man). But you'd never know without reading the lyrics sheet: Skramz vocals be impenetrable. Songs could be about a friend dying or human rights violations or "the scene" being shitty or bad stuff happening and feeling bad about it or the world just being so darn, ugh, you know? They could even just be Simpsons quotes and refrigerator poetry.
There are certainties, though. Context is key, and authorial intent is alive and well in screamo, as most songs have their own liner notes, and you'll definitely need them to grasp the neo-Marxist interdisciplinary social theories, Formalistic interpretations and critiques of the decadence of the vicious meat market of sexual intent in punk rock being dropped on your head. These dudes know how to fuckin' party!
There is a je ne sais quoi of foreign language skramz that makes it almost universally revered in The States. In our jingoistic little land, the zine librarians, button-makers, and other various enlightened-boner-havers are more apt to faun over La Quiete, Amanda Woodward, Da´tro, and Envy, especially Envy, than comparable American acts. What could possibly drive the focus toward Shikari and away from Joshua Fit for Battle? Well, settle down, Beavis, it's because Shikari owns. But, a better answer is because of exoticism.
Yes, exoticism: The reason I'm wearing a keffiyeh right at this very moment and using the proper pronunciation of Moleskine. Take some humdrum, middlin' English language screamo and sing it in French (and, you know, actually be from France) and you're guaranteed to start makin' that Level Plane money. Stackin' that Electric Human Project paper. Cashin' those Happy Couples Never Last royalty checks. (But, I hope you were doing all that years and years ago, because those labels are pretty much defunct.) I can't even understand the words that are coming out of their mouths, but it's that lack of understanding that allows us to create our own meaning without having to worry about the potential disappointment of bad lyrics. And that's magic.