twentynine Scene #5: From Autumn to Ashes - Too Bad You're Beautiful (2001)
The year 2019 is now Twenty Nine-Scene. Join Two Minutes to Late Night co-creator Drew Kaufman as he looks at back at the seminal albums that defined what it meant to be someone who lived for -core between the years 1999 to 2009. Screamo, power violence, mall metal, whatever your older brother called it. Do these albums still live up to their hype, or are they beautiful little time capsules buried beneath the Panda Express you used to go to on your lunch break? Buckle up your studded seat belts and pull your old snake bites out from the scrapbook as we use our fake ID to sneak into number five, From Autumn to Ashes' Too Bad You're Beautiful.
There's a moment in every biopic where the audience sees an event in our young hero's life which foreshadows their future as a public figure. Picture this: a young John Lennon is walking down the street when he spots a beautiful guitar on display in a shop window. He stops dead in his tracks, turns, and makes eye contact with the guitar as the camera dollies in slowly upon the instrument. His eyes glisten as he has a glimpse into his future. One day the whole world will know how John Lennon jerked off next to Paul McCartney, but for now, he's just a little boy with his whole life ahead of him.
Those moments are usually fabricated bullshit, but if they were real I guess mine would have been after school in the fall of 2003 in my friend Kevin's bedroom when he played me "Cherry Kiss" by From Autumn to Ashes. I remember him asking me if I had ever heard this song before and I was too insecure to admit to discovering something new so I lied. At the time I was just a shitty Rob Zombie fan with a penchant for ska, but maybe at that very instant, when the spiral-staircase-of-a-riff kicked in, and the scream of "creation: imperfect" permeated my brain, I knew that one day I would be writing a weekly column about hardcore music. And bald. In reality, all I was thinking about was playing Halo 2, though.
Too Bad You're Beautiful was released in summer 2001 which was basically the stone age of the scene. It's an absolute classic that has influenced more aughts bands than Motorola. The sound of this album has been imitated countless times but never duplicated (even by From Autumn to Ashes) themselves. But does Too Bad You're Beautiful stand the test of time?
Yeah? Mostly? I'm still not sure.
Everyone can agree that what made Too Bad You're Beautiful so special was how it took several genres of music and chopped them together. FATA never went full Mr. Bungle but there were some pretty dramatic shifts mid-song that still caught me off guard this re-listen. Take for example, "Reflections," which starts off as some Starbucks overhead speaker music, switches into Hatebreed then to Smashing Pumpkins to New Found Glory (they shout "let's go!" wtf?) before hauling ass to Breakdown Town and finishing strong with a sample from some movie no one has ever seen. Plus, a glockenspiel. Jesus.
I really enjoyed listening to Too Bad You're Beautiful, however, I'm not positive this album truly holds up. The classic songs with the best riffs, and the pounding drums, and the heaviest moments are still just as intense as they've always been. "Short Stories with Tragic Endings" is will always be the stand out track for me: female guest vocals, spoken word speeches through a megaphone, violins, plus a song title that implies the band knows how to read. It is very much a product of its time because it is the foundation of so many tropes we either immediately loved or grew to hate.
Too Bad You're Beautiful feels extremely teenage, and not just lyrically. This was the album you would listen to when you and your friend were both too ashamed to admit to each other that you liked Dashboard Confessional. It slips in emo-style vocals and underage poetry in-between mosh overtures the same way you would feed a dog a pill by hiding it in some peanut butter. The problem with that is now I'm an adult with confidence and decision-making skills. I think I would rather just listen to the bands who pick a genre, no matter how tacky and stick with it.
Would a new listener in the year hashtag twentynine scene really sit through a bunch of kids screaming "hello my first name is distance" while they're waiting for the good part to start, because let's be honest, we were all just waiting for the good parts? I'm all for the dynamic play, and I don't even mind acoustic guitars, but the non-hardcore parts of the song don't stand as well on their own as the hardcore parts could. It's a conundrum really because if this album was just generic hardcore it would have been just fine, but all of these little bits and pieces of angst rainbow truly paint the picture. It's kind of like how the Wire inadvertently became a period-piece because of how quickly technology improved in a post 9/11 world. Too Bad You're Beautiful, it's too bad you're beautiful because maybe this album would have aged better if it wasn't so ambitious.
But This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race. Let's tear apart Too Bad You're Beautiful.
No Hardcore Dancing In The Living Room: Can you mosh to Too Bad You're Beautiful? Yeah, maybe, but it's kind of like watching a whole movie on HBO just so you can see a few seconds of nudity. The heaviest breakdowns are in "Capeside Rock", "The Switch"," and "Reflections". They big but they're quick so if you're listening to this album in the background, you'll miss them. And listening to this album in the background makes the most sense since "Capeside Rock" has a breakdown that would make you want to throw your friend through a glass coffee table but by the time you get a few warmup windmills in FATA has already moved on to a Ricky Ricardo bongo solo. "The Switch" slaps, though.
Gluing Carpet to Your Genitals Does Not Make You A Cantaloupe: Are From Autumn to Ashes' song titles utter nonsense? No, but they are mostly interesting. Both "Cherry Kiss" and "Short Stories With Tragic Endings" are extremely evocative song titles that instantly make me feel something. What, I do not know, but something none the less and that's pretty powerful. Then you have "Take Her To The Music Store" which is about as milquetoast as you can get other than "Don't Forget To Buy Milk." I think this might be a reference to something, perhaps a TV show where a young man isn't sure where to take a girl on a date and his cool older brother says "Take Her To The Music Store." I have nothing to base this off of other than the fact that this song samples a line from DAWSON'S FUCKING CREEK and loops it over and over again. Chad Michael Murder-Me.
Oh, and I have no idea what "The Royal Crown -vs.- Blue Duchess" is. I always thought it was about two different brands of cigarettes getting in a street fight. I got my money on Duchess.
You’re Cute When You Scream: FATA was not the first band to have a clean vocalist and a screamer, nor we're the last, but I would say Francis Mark has the voice that launched a thousand high-pitched ships. His vocals just rub me wrong in a way that other higher range singers never did (Anthony Green, the guy from Chiodos who probably worked at Quiznos). It's pretty cool he could sing and play drums at the same time but Benjamin Perri's growl is super tight and is always welcome. Again, I think this goes back to the theory that we're only waiting for the good part.
Nothing We Say Leaves This Room: Is this album problematic? No, not really. The closest FATA comes to being problematic is the song title "Choloform Perfume", but looking at the lyrics it seems to be about suicide and not something non-consensual. Just your typical whiny, unrequited love and heartbreak stuff. It's a blessing I haven't found anything too awful in these albums, yet… yet.
Hey, It’s Your Funeral, Mama: So whatever happened to From Autumn to Ashes? They put out three more albums before breaking up in 2008, a major event during the slow-heat-death of the scene. The Fiction We Live (2004), Abandon Your Friends (2005), and Holding a Wolf by The Ears (2007) are okay albums by hardcore standards even if they all failed to fully capture the youthful experimentation of this album. There's a handful of good tracks on each album, but as FATA moved farther away from Too Bad Your Beautiful and dropped all the emo-open-mic night elements from their repertoire, they began to sound more like the bands they inspired. I remember back before 2006 every single local band I ever saw pretty much ripped off minute-three of "Reflections". Maybe FATA should have done the same.
So how do I rate this album? If can press skip and fast forward, I'd give it a four. Upon Reflections (lol), so much of my love for this album is mostly nostalgia and I think if a younger listener or anyone who could listen with fresh ears would not have as good of a time as I had back in 2004 when I looked great in a pair of Levi's 527 skinny bootcut jeans. Maybe I'm wrong. I'm probably not, and that's the true Short Story With Tragic Endings (please don't dox me).
I give Too Bad You're Beautiful 3 flat irons out of 5. The first rule of keeping kosher is separating your hardcore from your emo.