Even 10 years ago, emo was a dirty word. Fans of various underground rock bands were constantly infighting about what constitutes emo, whether it's cool to be emo and which bands are really emo after all.

Even 10 years ago, emo was a dirty word. Fans of various underground rock bands were constantly infighting about what constitutes emo, whether it's cool to be emo and which bands are really emo after all.

Eventually the term was applied so liberally to such a wide swath of bands that it became nearly meaningless. Any rock band that dealt in heavy sentiments or angry frustration was saddled with the "emo" tag and sucked into the endless, vacuous cycle of debate.

Consider the disparity between Q and Not U and The Appleseed Cast. Both acts stemmed from the hardcore tradition that spawned "classic" emo acts like The Promise Ring and Sunny Day Real Estate. Both could be summed up with the less-polarizing "post-hardcore" label. A lot of the same kids were into both groups. Yet their sounds were vastly different.

Q and Not U were spazzed-out D.C. punks who traded in angular riffs and nervous tension. The Appleseed Cast used drones and arpeggios to paint expansive post-rock soundscapes. If they shared a sensibility, it was a ruthless earnestness that simply doesn't fly these days.

That's why it's so jarring to see those musicians spin through Columbus in the same week. The Appleseed Cast, scheduled to headline The Summit on Sunday, is still intact, with an upcoming EP to show for it. As of 2009's "Sagarmatha," they were still building moody walls of sound with the best of them.

Q and Not U, on the other hand, is long gone, but frontman John Davis will be back at The Treehouse on Friday with a new band called Title Tracks. The new band is closer to Ted Leo's idealistic pop-punk than the spastic jerks of Davis' previous project.

Both acts still have their hearts on their sleeves, but I wouldn't dare call either one of them emo - at least not to their faces.