Skyscraper Magazine » American Hardcore
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Steven Blush
Feral House
Format: Paperback / eBook
Release Date: October 19, 2010
By Dave Cantor October 5, 2011

Why a quote from Juxtapoz seems appropriate on the cover of Steven Blush’s American Hardcore: A Tribal History will forever remain a mystery. But it’s there and points to the tremendous audience the book’s picked up since first being printed in 2001, then being turned into Sony Pictures distributed documentary film.

There are, no doubt, droves of readers and film-goers who take issue with the figures included and dismissed in the first edition of the book. So, as remediation – and to make a few dollars, no doubt – Paper Magazine music editor and former fanzine writer Blush, along with the folks up there in Washington at anarchist punk publisher Feral House, went back and added-in hundreds of bands that didn’t make the cut during the first go ‘round. Of course, if those bands were given short shrift to begin with, there’s little likelihood any mattered too much beyond their native town’s borders. But that’s the point, even if listing those newly included groups in a boring, bolded type setting at the end of each chapter was the answer. Separating this edition of American Hardcore from its initial run, apart from those tacked on historical notes, is a bit difficult. The cover’s got yellow on it this time and a different picture on the back. Unfortunately, that’s it. Whatever the case, Blush’s prose and design prowess aren’t what readers are here for; coaxing stories and insight from people who ran labels, headed-up scenes, and booked shows is what makes this work worth a read.

At one point, Blush tosses out a bit of tangential political theory, making mention of syndicalism. While a haughty phrase meant for the academic set, the idea of creating an insular, sustainable culture was at the heart of hardcore’s push. The fact that teenaged bands ran around the country, scaring yokels and inspiring other kids while taking care of each other seems like a far cry from whatever the indie-landscape is today. Sure, there are bands relentlessly performing day after day, releasing music of its own volition on a spate of low-rent, hard to suss labels. But there’s not a concerted feel to any of it. Hardcore, for a brief sliver of time, represented what a constituency of people wanted. And despite the ardent distaste for hippie-types, hardcore’s culture, in its purest form, was the realization and application of all those drop out spots that cropped up during the late 1960s and then soon disappeared. Some of the music hasn’t aged all that well, but if American Hardcore makes one reader reassess D.R.I., it was a success.

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