Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hardcore Is a Festering Sea of Bullshit Part II

This is sort of a knee-jerk reaction to a comment posted today on this post. There's going to be a lot I leave out, and it might not "flesh out" alright, but it's in one draft, save for links I'm posting within the blog to give some people who don't know some of the bands we're talking about more information. You should probably read the comment before reading this. I ask that anyone with thoughts on this (on any side) to please add them in a comment.

I don't think the ratio of good bands to bad bands is any worse today than it's ever been. There have always been a few great bands of any era and a thousand copy cats filling up the void. People talk so much about how great the 80s were, but looking at the literally thousands of bands on flyers that I've never heard of, or hearing all these random obscurities pop up that are usually awful, points to tell me that the ones who are famous are famous because, for the most part, they were just better. Sure, there are some really amazing bands from the 80s (and 70s and 60s and 50s) that have been lost to time due to a lack of legit releases/lack of touring/national disinterest/whatever, but there are millions of bands throughout the annals of rock history that are just plain awful.

Saying that older bands should headline big shows because bands today "suck", right after passing off the 90s as a stagnant era in heavy, underground, or rock music is absurd, ignorant, and lazy. Your example of Kurt Cobain is sensible to a degree, but Nirvana (even though I hate the band) recorded a lot more material than most of the "greats" from the 80s hardcore era and influenced countless bands to pick up where they left off, whether or not he offed himself before he reached his artistic pinnacle. The fact is that, with few exceptions, hardcore bands from the 80s only ever had one, maybe two LPs, and 7" that are worth listening to.
The example of Layne Staley, in the context you used it, is also irrelevant because he overdosed in 2002 (I remember it vividly), so he had the whole decade prior to work with.

But discounting the mainstream examples, I don't see how you, or anyone, can shrug off the 90s as being irrelevant in hardcore punk. Born Against blew open the door to the 90s with a completely new take on NYHC. Some East Coast bands mellowed out, some more found God (in various forms), and others abandoned all that had happened before, but that's what made it so interesting. You can't tell me that His Hero Is Gone ripped off anything that came out of the 1980s. Monuments to Thieves succeeds at showing the American lifestyle on a bleak plane of nihilism to a soundtrack heavier, more intricate, and less formulated than anything Black Flag or their contemporaries did. The Refused infused jazz onto an ancient punk aesthetic in a fashion that most of the people trying to "evolve" in the 80s never would have imagined. Los Crudos could outplay anybody trying to speed things up in '86. And none of those bands even survived to this decade, so now we've got younger kids picking up where that era left off and building their own sound. Listen to Circle Takes the Square, Anodyne, or even a straightforward band like the Boils and tell me they're just throwbacks that're bending over for the old guys they open for. You'd be lying through your teeth.

And that's not even to say that it's even the progressive bands that need to recognition. Fear City are selling out bars in the Southside consistently, and they definitely have a vintage sound. Skate Korpse put out three absolutely genius 7"s that were totally based off early 80s SoCal style with a heavy dose of 60s surf thrown in, and by the time they broke up, they were being talked about at every DIY show in the US.

The problem is the scene, sure. It's the uber punks who keep younger kids out of the real underground scene. But it's also the old bands who think they need to teach us something. Like we could learn from shit they did 20 years ago. Believe me, I read it in a book, and that was probably a lot more romantic and exciting that what really went on in NYC in the mid-80s. And honestly, I could give a fuck less. It's 2007, times are different. You can tell us that it was scary growing up under Reagan and you lived in fear all the time because you're a paranoid schizophrenic. Emosadboohoo. Like growing up in the 90s/00s was so fucking easy for working class kids and we've got nothing to be pissed off about.

There are some great 80s bands still recording good material (Demented Are Go and Mad Sin both recorded their best material in the past decade), and even some US bands (the Freeze seems to be the best example off the top of my head) but to most of us, the 80s hardcore scene is almost irrelevant now. The "reunion" shows are mostly just old men reliving their "glory days" in front of kids they would have made fun of in high school. Go see I Object! the next time they roll through your town and let me know how much better they are than whatever shitty 80s band is reuniting at the club across the street to five times as many people for twice as much money.

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