"Tangled" is a song by the band Native Nod
, appearing on their Answers
7" EP. The song is one of the absolute benchmarks of the genre that was once referred to as emo
, although that word has since taken on connotations that have little to do with music like "Tangled."
"Tangled" is in the same vein as "Kick The Can
" by Moss Icon
and "Angry Son" by Indian Summer
, two other songs that can be called definitive in the emo genre (if there really is such a thing). This isn't really the place to debate the ins and outs of what emo once was, but suffice it to say that it had a few key characteristics: young men playing intricate, often-beautiful guitar
-based music with a lot of gut-wrenching catharsis
. You might argue that such a definition could apply equally to the Replacements
, and you wouldn't be wrong. Trace that line of thought across Minnesota
to Hüsker Dü
and you'd be getting warmer. Take that thought and trot across a few state lines to Washington, D.C.
and you turn hot, tripping over Rites of Spring
. Drift outside the capital into Maryland
and you're burning up, looking for The Hated
. Wander into New Jersey
and you might burst into flames, finding Native Nod in the basement, screaming and kicking over mic stands.
They only released three records. Three seven inch pieces of vinyl. If Black Flag
had done that, they would've stopped with "Six Pack
." Maybe some people would prefer it that way, but there would've been no Damaged
and how can you countenance that? Native Nod only released nine songs. If Sonic Youth
had only had nine songs, they would have gotten less than halfway through Confusion is Sex
. If Minor Threat only had nine songs, they would've screeched to a halt with "In My Eyes
." No Out of Step
But honestly all that's beside the point, because even if Native Nod had only recorded "Tangled" and nothing besides, they'd still be legends. Or maybe more accurately, they'd still be legends to me
, and also to everyone else I've ever met who has heard "Tangled." And that's the thing about a lot of the best emo bands: one song can be enough. I can't imagine a world without every single Heroin
song, but if they had only left behind "Has Been
" or "Head Cold
" as a record, I'd still marvel at them. If Julia
had only left "End", it'd be enough. Because it's like that line that gets repeated in "Angry Son": "this is the moment."
The song starts with a wash of dissonant guitar, framed by a nervous minor-key bassline. It's prickly, like pine needles. You might say, "where are we going?" But before long the drums pick up speed and Chris Leo
's voice slices through it all. It's an awkward introduction: this is Chris Leo, the new student in class. You might know Chris' older brother, Ted Leo
(of & the Pharmacists fame). His voice is disarming, and it's unforgettable. He sounds like a kid who's never stood up for himself before, speaking up for the first time: his voice strained, worried, and wracked with everything that's unsaid. The guitar just echoes out around his shaking voice, gorgeous melodies overlapping with dissonance and tension. Those distorted bits of guitar are like snaking vines of kudzu
. They wrap around your trellis
, creep across your window, hide away the sun. But you're not afraid, not even when they tighten into jagged power chord
s and Chris is screaming, he's admitting everything. "I'm not saying I know the answers, besides it's not up to me..." The music surges ahead, falls back and begins again. It's like the tides; it's like the seasons. Those notes, those textures, they're like the leaves changing color and floating down to the concrete
. And Chris sounds on the verge of giving up: "This puzzle
's too big, it's all around me." The music holds up a mirror
to his frustration, the band falling away into silence and letting the ominous guitar notes ring out. Everything stops: the future's uncertain. Like Sarah Connor
said, it rolls towards us, unknown. And Chris comes back, but he's disenchanted. He's having trouble expressing himself. But he lets go, he's cutting through the pretense. "I love you
," he screams at the top of his lungs. The music is tentative, but it builds. It gets serious, like a kid learning how to kiss a girl or tie a Windsor knot
. Suddenly the words are rushing out again, tumbling over themselves, like we're about to part and Leo wants to get it all out because he's afraid it might be his last chance. Finally, he's happy.
And then it's over. But the moment remains.