MONDAY, JULY 13, 2015
WEEK 28: AMERICAN HARDCORE
Malcolm McLaren was often accused of pinching Richard Hell’s ripped T-shirt chic, spiky hair and elegantly wasted look to create British punk fashion, but in the late seventies America never did have much of a punk scene, certainly not as we knew it. Sure there was CBGB’s, the arty no wave scene and California’s great if ignored Dils, Zero’s and Avengers, but in Blighty, amidst a storm of nationalistic chauvinism, we dismissed the lot of them. Not that any frustrated teen bored out of their mind in New York, LA, San Francisco, Washington, Boston or Texas gave a shit about that.
Reacting to the third wave British punk of Sham 69, the UK Subs and the Angelic Upstarts by appropriating certain elements and discarding others, the young kids who would transform hardcore into such a phenomenon became the most brutal invocation of American youth ever. United by their shaved heads, inbuilt aggression, anti-art, anti-fashion stance and a vague political consciousness, hardcore was, at least as far as a bunch of 15 year old boys were capable of articulating it, a response to the musical and cultural moment in which they found themselves; a music and movement in negation of everything.
The first to push in a hardcore as opposed to a punk direction were LA’s short lived Germs, San Francisco politico’s The Dead Kennedy’s and Hermosa Beach’s Black Flag, the one group who would come to define the movement. ‘Nervous Breakdown’, from the pre Henry Rollins, Keith Morris era, was arguably their finest moment even if it’s not quite the greatest song to emerge from the genre as a whole. That honour goes to the smack in the mouth delivered by Bad Brains ‘Pay to Cum’. Yet no matter how great the records, they were only ever half the story.
Throughout its short history, hardcore was primed and loaded by the DIY ethic of the clubs, flyers, fanzines, labels and groups that germinated in almost every town and city across the country and into Canada. Together these local scenes made for a comprehensive underground network utilised by the likes of Black Flag and Minor Threat to tour relentlessly and spread the word with their customary missionary zeal, often for the benefit of just a handful of kids.
Yet no matter how tirelessly they worked to join up the dots, hardcore groups always remained inextricably linked to the scenes from which they came: Ian MacKaye’s Minor Threat articulated the lifestyle choice that came to be associated with hardcore so DC was the obvious intellectual and moral centre, L.A. it’s equally obvious fucked up opposite. The Midwest became the working-class arm of the movement while New York and Boston offered the hard line, Canada and Texas providing the scene's rare humorous moments.
Hardcore’s peak years came as early as 1981/82 yet there are many who believe it lingered on until the winter of 1985 when The Minutemen’s D. Boon died in a car crash and Husker Du signed to Warners. Given its natural, built in obsolescence I’d say that’s nonsense but whenever it ended, hardcore has been studiously ignored ever since, often by its most renowned participants. And that’s astonishing, because when you consider how small and marginalised it really was, hardcore’s creative influence, certainly in America, still casts a disproportionately voluminous shadow.
01 MIDDLE CLASS ‘Insurgence’ (Out Of Vogue EP May 1978)
02 THE GERMS ‘Circle One’ (Lexicon Devil EP May 1978)
03 BLACK FLAG ‘Nervous Breakdown (Nervous Breakdown EP October 1978)
04 AGENT ORANGE ‘Bloodstains’ (A Side August 1979)
05 DEAD KENNEDYS ‘California Uber Alles’ (A Side October 1979)
06 THE MISFITS ‘Last Caress’ (Beware EP November 1979)
07 FLIPPER ‘Ha Ha Ha’ (B Side April 1980)
08 BAD BRAINS ‘Pay To Cum’ (A Side June 1980)
09 MDC ‘John Wayne Was A Nazi’ (A Side July 1980)
10 CIRCLE JERKS ‘World Up My Ass’ (Group Sex LP February 1981)
11 ADOLESCENTS ‘Wrecking Crew’ (Adolescents LP March 1981)
12 MINOR THREAT ‘Straight Edge’ (Minor Threat EP June 1981)
13 BAD RELIGION ‘Damned To Be Free’ (How Could Hell Be Any Worse LP September 1981)
14 GOVERNMENT ISSUE ‘Rock And Roll Bullshit’ (Legless Bull EP September 1981)
15 WASTED YOUTH ‘Fuck Authority’ (Reagans In LP September 1981)
16 MINUTEMEN ‘Tension’ (The Punch Line EP November 1981)
17 T.S.O.L. ‘Sounds Of Laughter’ (Dance With Me LP November 1981)
18 DOA ‘Fucked Up Ronnie’ (Positively DOA LP January 1982)
19 SS DECONTROL ‘Boiling Point’ (The Kids Will Have Their Say LP March 1982)
20 BATTALION OF SAINTS ‘I’m Gonna Make You Scream’ (Fighting Boys EP May 1982)
21 BIG BOYS ‘Fun Fun Fun’ (Fun Fun Fun EP May 1982)
22 GANG GREEN ‘I Don’t Care’ (This Is Boston Not LA Compilation LP 1982)
23 DESCENDENTS ‘Suburban Home’ (Milo Goes To College LP June 1982)
24 ANGRY SAMOANS ‘My Old Man’s A Fatso’ (Back From Samoa LP July 1982)
25 YOUTH BRIGADE ‘Sink With Kalifornia’ (Sound And Fury LP August 1982)
26 ARTICLES OF FAITH ‘Bad Attitude’ (What We Want Is Free EP September 1982)
27 ZERO BOYS ‘New Generation’ (Vicious Circle LP September 1982)
28 REALLY RED ‘I Was A Teenage Fuck Up’ (New Strings For Old Puppets EP October 1982)
29 HEART ATTACK ‘Shotgun’ (New York Thrash Cassette November 1982)
30 BEASTIE BOYS ‘Beastie Boys’ (Pollywog Stew EP November 1982)
31 NECROS ‘No One’ (Conquest For Death LP February 1983)
32 SOCIAL DISTORTION ‘Another State Of Mind’ (Mommy’s Little Monster LP May 1983)
33 SUICIDAL TENDENCIES ‘Institutionalized’ (Suicidal Tendencies LP July 1983)
34 D.R.I. ‘Blockhead’ (Dirty Rotten EP July 1983)
35 THE DICKS ‘Little Boys Feet’ (Kill From The Heart LP October 1983)
36 HUSKER DU ‘Real World’ (Metal Circus EP October 1983)