12 by... aims to summarize an artist's career in 12 songs. This one features...
The Promise Ring were nearly as precious as their name, with short songs, clever lyrics and the lisp of singer Davey von Bohlen, and a proclivity for pop melodies.
To me they'll forever be one side of the Trinity Of Emo along with Jimmy Eat World and The Get-Up Kids. They broke up, unsurprisingly considering a sometimes fractious band dynamic and a health scare for von Boheln, in 2002.
1. "A Picture Postcard" (from 30 Degrees Everywhere, 1996)
A groovy, swooning track that, had it come along 10 years later, could have graced any Old Navy, J.C.Penney or Apple commercial. Davey's vocal is vulnerable and delicate, and the band even gets to rock out in the middle.
2. "Perfect Lines" (from Nothing Feels Good, 1997)
Melodic bass highlights this little rocker. Favorite line: "...from Bell South to a southern belle."
3. "Red & Blue Jeans" (from Nothing Feels Good, 1997)
Critics like to point to the album title (which came from the lyrics in this song) as a summary of the emo mindset. But wait, look at how it's actually used: "Nothing feels good like you in your red and blue jeans and your white and night things." Oh, and those are the only lyrics in the entire song!
4. "Why Did We Ever Meet" (from Nothing Feels Good, 1997)
A great band performance. Davey would later reference this one on Jimmy Eat World's "A Praise Chorus." "Ba-ba-ba-da-ba-ba-ba-da-ba-da, doo-doo-doo-do-do-doo-doo-and you!"
5. "Best Looking Boys" (from Boys + Girls EP, 1998)
Davey cast further doubt on his own sexuality with that title (he's straight, afterall), but Best Looking Boys is really all about the groove. By the way, apparently the best looking boys go all the way.
6. "The Deep South" (from Very Emergency, 1999)
The Very Emergency album did set the cuteness dial a bit too far to the right, but there were some great songs nonetheless. The Deep South reminds me David Lynch, whose personal aura of innocence seems improbable. When Davey says "I think that's exciting" he puts across the same attitude.
7. "Jersey Shore" (from Very Emergency, 1999)
They'd been listening to a lot of Pavement, I'd gather, but this song is a charmer.
8. "Skips A Beat (Over You)" (from Very Emergency, 1999)
Musically sounds most like it could have been on Nothing Feels Good. The difference is that this is the rare song where Davey's lyrics are completely lucid. Such are the effects of love!
9. "Make Me A Mixtape" (from Electric Pink EP, 2000)
I'd like to see statistics on how many circa 2000 emo kid mix tapes / CDs featured this song as the opener. By the way, Davey asks to hear "Husker Du and something The Cars did in 1982". That latter part would be difficult since The Cars were on hiatus and didn't release an album that year.
10. "Stop Playing Guitar" (from wood/water, 2002)
The Promise Ring's final album, wood/water, was a departure for the band. It featured longer songs and less obvious melodies. Stop Playing Guitar displays a lyrical weariness that presages the band's break-up. Though, obviously, Davey got his groove back. He's released 4 or so albums with the bands Vermont and Maritime since the break-up.
11. "Suffer Never" (from wood/water, 2002)
Songs like this one make me mourn what could have been. The band sounds fuller, stronger and more mature than ever before. It even contains a zen koan for you to puzzle over: "more inside children with outdoor names".
12. "Get On The Floor" (from wood/water, 2002)
Wherein Davey has a dancing problem. He when he gets on the floor he "just freaks out." He also basically closes the door on the band: "In a second life I'd never become a singer /
They've all gone mad sad and angry / If it ended tonight I'd consider myself lucky and leave." And he did.