Reexamination, Division, and Hardcore is oh so Very Serious
Well, it’s Friday and you know what that means.
"If there's one thing you can still believe in in this country, it's wrestling"
Debbie Harry is a smark.
I recently watched the 2006 documentary American Hardcore: The History of American Punk Rock 1980–1986 and it really made me start to reexamine my thoughts on early hardcore punk. There was a lot of great music that came out of that scene but there were also some truly less-than-stellar acts. And there was a bunch of agro nonsense. I'm not passing judgment on those people, that scene, or those times because, as we all know, hindsight is 20/20.
The first hardcore I heard was 7 Seconds and I think they really shaped my relationship with that scene and genre (and they are still one of my favorite bands to this day). Obviously, I was getting into this music years after the fact (I probably first heard 7 Seconds in 1992) but it wasn't that far into the past (for example, my first hardcore record, Rock Together, Rock Together was released in 1985, only seven years before I heard it for the first time). From there I discovered Minor Threat and loved them almost as much. There was a difference between those bands and so many of their contemporaries. Yes, there was aggression, but they didn't seem, to me at least, to embrace the wonton violence that bands like SSD or Black Flag did. Now I know that that was a different world and was a lot rougher than anything I've been a part of over the years, but there seems to be a difference between venting aggression and being blatantly violent. Again though, I wasn't there and if I had been, I probably would have gotten killed.
My introduction to the greater world of alternative music came a few years earlier through post-punk and college rock bands like U2, R.E.M., The Cure, INXS, and The Smiths. In fact, what I loved about 7 Seconds is that they felt like a spiritual successor to U2 but with faster and more intense music (an opinion that was cemented for me when I got their 1987 live album Live! One Plus One). In those early years, I picked up records by the aforementioned Circle Jerks and Black Flag plus the Dead Kennedys and I enjoyed all of them.
After I moved to Oklahoma I was introduced to the Gorilla Biscuits, who I immediately loved. Now I realize that they were not part of that first wave of hardcore but by the time they came around, the violence in the scene had continued to grow. Beyond those bands, and Fugazi who obviously came much later and was doing something very different, I didn't hear a lot of hardcore until the mid to late 90s because their records were not easy to find. Enter Music Dimensions, OKC's first (to my knowledge at least) punk rock record store. The first time I went into Music D's I was blown away by the selection. They had records for sale that I'd only seen in record label catalogs or Sessions magazine. Finally, I was able to get my hand and a half on records by bands like Youth Brigade (the one from CA) and Dag Nasty* (which I LOVED) and later bands like the Angry Samoans and The Vandals (which I did not love). What I started to notice then, and completely realize now, is that the bands that I connected with from that era were not the macho, aggro, violent bands. I will take 7 Seconds and Minor Threat any day over Negative FX or SSD. And now, all these years later, the only first wave hardcore bands that I listen to on a regular basis are 7 Seconds and Minor Threat (though Youth Brigade is starting to make a comeback).
As the film lays out, the first wave of hardcore came to an end in the mid-80s, and basically, four things happened.
Many of the original bands broke up.
Those bands that did stick around evolved with some going in a more metal and thrash direction (SSD, DRI) while others went into a more melodic direction (7 Seconds, Minor Threat).
New bands were formed that purposefully took things in different and more melodic directions (Dag Nasty, Embrace).
A new generation of hardcore bands formed (Cro-Mags, Sick Of It All, Youth of Today).
Also during this time, the bands that had been contemporaries of those early hardcore groups but really weren't hardcore started spreading their wings (The Replacements, Husker Du, Naked Raygun, R.E.M.). This era was recently covered in the book We Can Be The New Wind by Alexandros Anesiadis which I recently picked up and can't wait to read!
The film ends with what was basically a parade of bitter old men complaining about the youths of today. It was all kind of sad, especially for an era of music that was incredibly important.
Oh, and on one final note. Is it just me or did the lead singer of the Dicks look a lot like the American Dream Dusty Rhodes?
*Note: Obviously Dag Nasty was not one of the early hardcore bands but they were close. Their stuff was incredibly hard to find in the mid-90s and I picked up their collection 85-86 on my first trip to Music D's.
Listen to Very Serious
One of the best news/political podcasts to come around in a long time is Very Serious with Josh Barro. Barro was the host of Left, Right & Center for seven years before branching out on his own. If you are looking for good, even-handed, nuanced analysis of the news, politics, and current events then this is the show for you. An excellent example is the February 10th episode with David Leonhardt on COVID mitigation benefits and costs. This show is thoughtful and honest and will make you question and think and lord knows that we need more of both in the world.
Tweet of the Week
naive 6 @Eve6i wonder if kurt cobain had grown up in san jose and gone to high school with the other guys in smashmouth he would have become the lead singer of smashmouth
More on the Divisions in America
Earlier this week, Yahoo ran this on their homepage --
The article's actual headline stated 'The brand is so toxic': Dems fear extinction in rural US, and while not quite as eye-catching as the one above, it still drives the point home. As someone who lives in the most conservative state in the union (Oklahoma) and works in a semi-rural community (it's a town that is somehow trying to be both suburban and rural all at the same time), I see this on a nearly daily basis. Or as Tom Holohan is quoted as saying, “The hatred for Democrats is just unbelievable [...] I feel like we’re on the run.”
Here's the sad truth...the Democratic Party abandoned rural America a long time ago. And now, in our hyper-partisan modern world, that divide seems to be insurmountable. It doesn't help that there is the perception that those "on the left" (whatever that actually means) look down their noses on rural America. It also doesn't help that that perception has its basis in reality. Obviously, not everyone who is aligned left-of-center holds a negative opinion about rural America but... Currently, both political parties main concern is keeping their base, specifically that small percentage of people who vote in primaries, happy. Not to generalize too much but, primary voters, especially those that get super energized about it, tend to be zealots. Putting the fate of the nation in the hands of the most extreme 15-20-ish% of voters is not only unsustainable but downright stupid.
How does the Democratic Party win back rural America? I'm not sure that they can and I wonder if they (and by "they" I mean those in positions of power) want to.
One Band, 5 Songs
This week on the podcast, I dive into the career of thrash metal legends Anthrax!!!
Stick a fork in me.