Thursday, October 26, 2006

American Hardcore review

Modern usage for the word “hardcore” carries with it a lot of baggage. Images of explicit sexual acts abound, but to the ‘80s punks who absconded the term for musical purposes hardcore will always mean something beyond screwing (at least in the literal sense). Hardcore was a rejection of the leadership, the social niceties and the plastic façade of consumerism; a big F-U to disco balls, pop music and spandex fashion. In other words, what these young punks screamed from coast to coast was, “screw the American way.”

The hardcore punks said so in an obscenely fast, raucous way to make sure that those outside the community would take the sound as an assault not only on their ears, but also on their values. It’s no coincidence that this radical musical genre manifested as a response to an era overwhelmed by materialism. With parallels being drawn between the current president, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, today’s youth may find a renewed interest in hardcore as the antithesis of modern politics. True, hardcore did little more than quell the anger of a few thousand musicians and fans by creating a new social set, but every generation needs a sufficient mode of expression.

A new documentary is letting audiences examine the hardcore movement, whether or not they chose to incorporate its philosophies into their own daily actions. Through Paul Rachman’s American Hardcore, the viewer gets a behind the scenes dialogue with the forefathers of the most extreme form of American music. Spanning the distance from hardcore hotspots such as San Francisco and Los Angeles to New York City and Boston, the 98- minute film gives not only a history of the aesthetics behind the movement, but also a glimpse at the former lives of these middle aged misfits.

Interviews of huge hardcore figures like Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat/Fugazi) and Brandon Cruz (Dr. Know/Dead Kennedys) are interwoven between classic tunes and live footage of such luminary bands as the Circle Jerks, Bad Brains and Black Flag. Mosh pits abound as pubescent boys throw elbows, knees and fists at each other in possessed fits of sublime rage. This may sound like a destructive scenario, but these kids actually built a community out of expressing their angst with American culture. Positive things grew from hardcore’s excitedly fast pulse and raucously played guitar chords: straightedge, for example, the abstaining from drugs and alcohol, became a branch of the hardcore ideology.

After five or six years of community-building, the hardcore scene began to fall apart around 1985. The ideology of the scene was so loosely held together by music that the movement never had a chance to actualize. Some of the bands, such as Hüsker Dü, lost the notion and began to play arena rock. Fans became disillusioned by the same pumping beat and excruciatingly loud guitars. Others turned to public violence and riots (and police brutality ensued).

What the participants of American Hardcore unanimously agree on is that the genre is dead, the sense of freedom and belonging gone to the wayside with it. Although many bands continue taking the title of hardcore as their style of playing, the musical similarities are superficial and the political sentiments often missing. Perhaps we are all searching for a new musical genre to incorporate the outsiders, to take a stand, to sound the call. Or perhaps the hardcore vision of a community united against the mainstream was only that: a vision.


Blogger scooper said...

wow, husker du arena rock? jesus, hardly. the early records all had elements of ragged pop, and the later ones spit just as much venom. the records released just after hardcore had spent itself, 'new day rising' and 'flip your wig,' were the most creative reinvisionings of hardcore's aesthetic as could be imagined during that time, complicating one-dimensional adolescent fury with strains of joy, yearning, and regret. hardcore was many things to many people, but at its root it was an impulsive release of destructive energy that had very little to do with art, certainly not in the way that, say, the british post-punk movement did. it was only after that release that something creative and beautiful could be made from it, and husker du was one of the most important bands in that respect. take another (first?) listen.

12:18 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home