There was a time when screamo was new. It didn't come from Guitar Center/Guitar Hero suburban emo bros with the same feathery salon haircut and inclinations to get crunk somewhere in the sadness mix, but '90s punk/hardcore kids in basements and living rooms realizing the potential of weird, dissonant, and anti-retro songwriting and scraping one's vocal chords out all over a taped-together microphone. The result was an experimental genre of music that had a lot to do with the evolution of hardcore or post-hardcore and a lot of stuff nowadays we consider at the leading edge of punk. And there's a revival of sorts of this early-days screamo on right now, with Baltimore's Pianos Become the Teeth being one of those holding the flag high along with bands like Touché Amoré, La Dispute, and a bunch—if not a glut—more.
Coming near the end of screamo's golden years was a band from Richmond called City of Caterpillar, which became one of the movement's big names and a pretty good touchstone for PBT. Though nothing like the comical ridiculousness of the present-day screamo fusiony things more popular for being internet memes than music, it's still a generally hybridized genre. And postrock is a classic candidate for a screamo mate: in which glassy, rain-streaked guitar notes and visceral builds and climaxes meet their subconscious in the form of tortured wailing.
Pianos Become the Teeth's 2010 record Old Pride (rereleased this year) was spot on with this sort of Explosions in the Sky-meets-hardcore, while the band's new The Lack Long After feels rather less spliced, less super-deliberate note-by-note melodic drear and more hardcore. Songs like "Shared Bodies" and "Spine" start right off at the climax: no build, just pummel and then pummel some more. All around, the instrumentation is less showy and more down-to-business, the result being a record oddly enough even more personal, or personal-sounding anyhow. It's like vocalist Kyle Durfey just stepped into the studio and picked up a microphone after the worst day of his life, and the band was there, ready to go along with whatever. It's not more affecting, but affecting at a different, more primordial emotional frequency. These are the sorts of songs you could imagine screaming right back at the band, which is something else entirely.
Pianos Become the Teeth plays a record release show at the Ottobar Jan. 6. For more information visit pianosbecometheteeth.tumblr.com.