Emo was and still is a difficult genre to pin down. The Promise Ring was one of the most popular American indie bands ever to wear the label, though they never quite embraced the punk fundamentals of fellow emo flailers Jimmy Eat World and The Get Up Kids. On their 2002 swan song, “Wood/Water,” they almost sounded like AOR band America.
The band’s singer-songwriter Davey von Bohlen and drummer Dan Didier had been making quieter, more pop-oriented music under the name Vermont before the breakup. Afterward, they recruited bassist Eric Axelson from the also recently kaput Dismemberment Plan to pursue this new direction more fully. Last month, the trio released their second album as Maritime, and while “We, the Vehicles” is every bit as strummy and light-footed as the group’s debut, “Glass Floors,” it conveys its twilit melancholy with a rougher edge. The tempos rarely reach breakneck speed, and von Bohlen keeps his voice down, but the songs bear down harder. The reggae accents of “Parade of Punk Rock T-Shirts” and the driving coda to “Young Alumni” prove that Maritime is at heart a power trio that values tightness and group dynamics above everything else.
“We, the Vehicles” was released in Japan last month but won’t come out in the U.S. until next year, which says something about the group’s profile here, at least among American indie freaks. They’ll be opening for local rock heroes Quruli at Zepp Tokyo on Nov. 4 (sorry, sold out a long time ago), but before that they’ll be doing a small club tour as headliners.