The world is a beautiful place with Algernon Cadwallader in it

The pop-culture industry loves to resurface detritus from my youth, add a little polish, and launch it on whatever streaming service I’m most likely to drop due to rising subscription fees—and I’m mostly just exhausted by it. Band reunions, especially of bands whose reputations and fan bases have kept growing since their breakup, are a cottage industry within live music, but despite their foibles they’re a world away from, say, the feature-length reboot of D-level early-90s Disney property Chip ’n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers. But the stultifying ubiquity of remakes on TV and in film—had you heard that Tim Burton is coproducing a new Addams Family spin-off for Netflix?—has started to taint my emotional reaction when I hear that yet another cult group I got into during the blog-rock era is hitting the road again. All the same, I perked right up in June when news broke of a reunion by Algernon Cadwallader, a Philadelphia group who reconsecrated 90s midwestern emo in the late 2000s. 

Algernon Cadwallader’s songs make it difficult to be cynical—they have the delirious energy of a kid begging for five more minutes in a bouncy castle. The band’s two full-length albums, 2008’s Some Kind of Cadwallader and 2011’s Parrot Flies, contain key traits of fourth-wave emo, which emerged in the 2010s—notably yelped vocals and elliptically cycling guitars. They inspired a burst of “twinkle” emo bands creating similar sounds, but those groups usually cranked up the melancholy that’s only a subliminal part of Algernon’s radiance. Just before they broke up in 2012, Algernon could draw a few hundred kids to a Logan Square basement, and a year or so later the emo revival became a crossover phenomenon in indie rock. Once they were gone, they achieved the sort of mythic status that few bands ever get to reunite and enjoy, and their albums remain the subject of hot debates among young emo fans. Cadwallader has the peppy hits, but I increasingly think of Parrot Flies as the standout, not least because it was recorded by the band’s classic final lineup: drummer Tank Bergman, bassist-vocalist Peter Helmis, and guitarist Joe Reinhart (who now plays in Hop Along). Algernon’s playing is sharper on Parrot Flies, with Bergman’s no-nonsense drums and Helmis’s steel-pole bass anchoring Reinhart’s zippy guitar, which zigzags like the arms of an inflatable tube man. Every song, no matter how ambitious, feels like it was conceived as part of a larger whole. 

In 2018, Asian Man Records teamed up with Lauren Records to reissue the group’s albums and release an odds-and-ends compilation called Algernon Cadwallader. I don’t expect Algernon to be the band they were more than a decade ago, and they’re not trying to be. For one thing, the lineup for this tour never performed together—Bergman, Helmis, and Reinhart will be joined by original second guitarist Colin Mahony and founding drummer Nick Tazza, and word is that every member will be onstage the whole time. I can’t predict how that will pan out, but here’s hoping it’s as much fun for the crowd as it’s sure to be for the five of them.

Algernon Cadwallader Tim Kinsella & Jenny Pulse open. Sun 10/16, 8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, $30, $25 in advance, 18+

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