American Hardcore on DVD

American Hardcore images

Fuck, man. It was a stroll down memory lane for me seeing this thing. I loved so many of these bands. There’s plenty of great footage and music. and lots of funny anecdotes. Gang Green touring with a skateboard ramp on stage, remember that?

They do a pretty good job of describing the teenage male pent-up feeling that found such a great release in the scene. Lots of testimony to the influence of Bad Brains and Black Flag. A highlight is watching the transformation of H.R. from short afro through six gnarly big dreadlocks. I also hadn’t heard the story about Think and Grow Rich which had a strong influence on the band.

The film gives a good sense of the separation and connections and rivalries among the various local scenes. A recurring graphic treatment locates the various scenes on a map of the US. I’ll bet people will be bummed that their favorite bands were left out but there was a pretty good sampling. Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Gang Green, D.O.A. Bad Brains, Flipper, C.O.C. Poison Idea, Cro-Mags, Jerry’s Kids, Big Boys, Minor Threat, Teen Idles, M.D.C. Zero Boys… did you know Moby was in a hardcore band?

They talk to Flea of course, Henry Rollins, Ian McKaye, Mike Watt, Keith Morris, H.R., journalists, managers… The big shocker for me was seeing Mugger – ex-Black Flag roadie and Nig Heist singer – as he is now. He had a quarter share in SST records at one time but he didn’t see eye to eye with Ginn about what kinds of bands they would sign so the other guys bought him out. He parlayed that into a personal fortune through tech invesments. I figured him for one of those guys who’d be dead before twenty. I remember he and Henry and a few others piling off the stage to beat a drunken asshole friend of ours.

Great stories about rough living and poverty and fighting the cops. Dang, sounded fun. Ian McKaye says that the the violence becoming the center was what turned him and a lot of people off and says he didn’t leave hardcore, hardcore left him. A lot of it fell apart.

There is an especially poignant moment in the credits when the R.I.P. list starts rolling.

I hated seeing that fuck Ronald Reagan being sworn in twice. but he did provide a focus for the music. There’s a great playlist of anti-Reagan songs at Something I Learned today.

The familiar documentary formula and seeing what these guys look like twenty years later was a bit tedious. It was an amazing thing, though and I’ll agree with the sentiment that it ended at some point. The tour bus, stadium playing current bands that people call punk are not the same thing. The D.I.Y. energy and purity was lost when the industry figured out how to sell it to the masses. Nothing that hasn’t been said before.

40 Comments

  1. houseofneil on December 20, 2007 - Reply

    they really missed with this one. It could have been so good, but ended up being a Bad Brains/Black Flag lovefest. How can you talk about american hardcore without showing the dead kennedys? So many important bands were missing, and the midwest portion was comically bad.

  2. Exactly what I thought. Also, 5 seconds of the Big Boys? Too many scenes left out. Try the book though…I thought it was pretty good…although it was annoyingly authoritative. Kind of ironic for a punk book.

  3. What about JFA not even mentioned?

  4. very good dvd

  5. I wasn’t expecting much from the movie as I found the book to be very authoritative in some areas, woefully neglect and dismissive of others. In the author’s defense, he pretty much says “this is the story as best as I know it, and I don’t know everything.” Still.. so good and so bad.

  6. I grew up in Southern California, went to college in Portland, Oregon and then lived in the Boston, Massachusetts area for a while. So for me Black Flag and the L.A. scene were the center of my musical universe. I had heard bands from other cities but those scenes were remote and I had only secondary interest in them. Just like the movie!

    I see how it could seem provincial. I got nostalgia, a little new info about stuff I know, and a few new bands to check out. I enjoyed it immensely. Someone from each of the other geographic areas should do an alternate history centered in their scene.

    I was also thinking we should remake The Breakfast Club so Emilio Estevez’s character ends up hooking up with Anthony Michael Hall’s and get that latent homosexuality out in the open.

  7. I was disappointed also. ‘We Jam Econo’ was a far better production.

  8. “Someone from each of the other geographic areas should do an alternate history centered in their scene.”

    Chicago has one, the recently completed “You Weren’t There” – I’m very excited to see that.

    SnA has turned into a music publication.

  9. If your tired of seeing the same old footage and hearing the same old accounts of punk rock history then tune into to (Steve) Jonesy’s Jukebox on indie 103.1. In particular, his recent interview with Mick Jones and Tony James of Carbon/Silicon reveals facts and anecdotes from back in the day that you would never hear or read anywhere else…

  10. The most annoying thing was hearing 20 seconds of a killer 2 minute song, then cut to the next scene. But I’m with MC, I thoroughly enjoyed the flick. The DOA, Fartz, and Poison Idea clips definitely took one back to the early 80’s PacNW scene. You’d pretty much need 12-15 hours treatment to begin to do proper justice to all the music that was going down in that era.

  11. Tom Miller on December 20, 2007 - Reply

    I try to minimize expectations on things like this and enjoyed it for what it presented. Is there such thing as a “definitive” account on a topic like this? I suppose one could try. Good luck with that nollie kickflip 900 in the street plaza.

    For argument’s sake, any of us who grew up with this music could argue about the importance of our own respective regional scenes. But honestly, do those bands really rise to the level of Black Flag or Bad Brains? Take JFA, for example. I’m from Phoenix. I’m not friends with those guys, but I sessioned the same spots as those guys all the time and saw them play plenty.

    Legends in skate rock? Absolutely. Legends in (the much broader category of) punk rock? I don’t think so. Definitely not on par with Flag or Brains. No way. And no disrespect to Brannon and those guy… but that’s the point: not every band can rise to the apex of importance.

    My .02.

  12. enemy combatant on December 20, 2007 - Reply

    Punk rock sux.

  13. houseofneil on December 21, 2007 - Reply

    I hear what you are saying BUT Murphy’s Law weren’t important either. neither were the Cro Mags, and yet we get interviews with them over and over. Same with the Boston bands. Much too much from some fringe players, not enough on others. And yes, Bad Brains were great, but so were the DKs. They deserve equal time.

  14. It seems to me that some of those guys are willing to talk so they get interviewed all the time while others don’t care and don’t want to talk about it. Every one of these things always seem incomplete to me. I find myself asking what about so and so all the time. I do have fun watching them as I’m a rockumentaryaholic. I had fun watching it for sure.

  15. Tom Miller on December 21, 2007 - Reply

    Musically, I think the Bad Brains catalog stands the test of time better than DK. That said, I know of no band that provoked as salaciously (and therefore as well) as DK.

    And what is punk rock without provocation? Were the Descendents (one of my all-time favorites) punk rock? In my arbitrary and irrelevant world of musical labels, the Descendents were pop played in the punk formula more than punk. The Descendents weren’t dangerous.

    That’s a can of worms that probably belongs on some music website. The more irrelevant and subjective the more we like to argue. It’s why we don’t argue about tax policy, arguably the significant impact on our lives. It actually matters, and therefore unworthy of discussion.

    Back to the topic, or something, Tony D has an astute observation. No matter the writer/director/producer team’s intentions, these things invariably take shape based on who’s willing to go on camera. As somebody who works in a city hall, I can affirm without hesitation that the media builds a story around what people are willing to say. If your most important band in the world didn’t make the cut here, it may be because your most important band in the world simply didn’t want to go on camera.

  16. Or wasn’t asked.

    If it was approached the same way the book was, the author pretty much said, this is what I know, you may know your scene better, but that’s all you’re going to get from me.

    It’s probably good at what it covers, but it’s just not comprehensive. Should be called “An American Hardcore” instead of American Hardcore.

  17. enemy combatant on December 22, 2007 - Reply

    Repeal the XVI Amendment!!!

  18. Tom Miller on December 22, 2007 - Reply

    That would be an interesting question, Randy, to the people behind the film: Do you consider the film comprehensive (within reasonable constraints, e.g. 90 minutes, etc.)?

    Imagine doing a “comprehensive” film about American skateparks. That’s an easier topic than American hardcore, and I still have a hard time imagining completeness. In addition to the obvious selections like Burnside, Louisville, Del Mar, etc. it wouldn’t be complete without a vignette from some awful rotten wood ramp setup in Anywhere, USA. It wouldn’t be complete without a PNW self-identified street skater bemoaning the terrain bias in the region’s parks, or god knows what’s going on at Skatopia.

  19. houseofneil on December 22, 2007 - Reply

    it shouldn’t be that hard. You start by making a list of the most important hardcore bands: Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Black Flag, Circle Jerks etc. Those all have to be covered in detail. Then you work your way through the 2nd tier bands. But without the first tier in there you can’t even consider it a comprehensive look at the hardcore scene.

    And Tom, I couldn’t disagree more about your comment about Bad Brains vs DKs. Bad Brains had 1 amazing album. The rest of the their stuff was all 2nd rate versions of the same, some verging on the unlistenable. The DKs on the other hand put out at least 3 classic, seminal albums. Of course, that’s just my opinion.

  20. i havent seen the film , but ive read the book twice DK get there credit in the book for sure . and if i had to pick 2 or 3 bands id go with minor thraet bad brains and black flag . DK rules , but , they are are constantly sueing and jerking jello around . so , who do you interview and not get a biased slant from? the book tells the whole story . it has chapters on all the bigies . id let you borrow it , but the copy i have belonged to a good friend of mine that is dead now . sorry .

  21. dont mean to post twice in a row , but the book dance of days by softskull press is an unbelievable book on the D.C. scene . totally worth the purchase . covers the P.M.A /bad brains book thing.

  22. Another possibility is that the footage they got of some bands wasn’t any good.

  23. I would think Social D (no coverage as I remember) and the pre 83 DOA (The term Hardcore came from their album)should get a place in that group of seminal bands.

    As mighty as Flag was—One of the biggest downers I’ve ever witnessed was the My War tour (83)in PDX. 500 jawdropping punks mumbling WTF. They were dethroned in a blink of an eye…

  24. I didn’t have the energy to read all the comments but I would agree with the first few that the Midwest was treated as an after thought even though Vic Bondi is the first interview in the movie I don’t think they have AoF much if any time. But you know the whole scene was huge and it was a movie so what do you expect.

    If you really want to read a great book about punk rock history check out Going Underground by George Hurchalla.
    http://www.zuopress.com/

  25. houseofneil on December 23, 2007 - Reply

    DOA are from Canada, so they wouldn’t belong in American Hardcore. Social D/ Interesting, but I’d class them more in punk rock terms, not necessarily hardcore, but you may be right.

    And if you thought the My War tour was bad, you should have seen the Loose Nut tour in 85/86. Horrible.

  26. enemy combatant on December 23, 2007 - Reply

    This might be the wrong place to ask, but does anyone here know of any good websites that have articles and discussion forums about skateboarding?

  27. Ryan Heckler on December 23, 2007 - Reply

    i hear there is a website where that is all they talk about, I think it is called sleestak

  28. nweyesk8 on December 23, 2007 - Reply

    i really am stoked on the new Benji Galloway board from Bacon. It has a killer 14″ 3/4 wheelbase. It is good to ride a board that i don’t have to touch my knees together, to stand within the wheelbase. while it may only be barely over 8″ wide it is still bigger feeling than my last board which was wider but a full 1″ 1/2 shorter. sorry Kilwag, I like my new Bacon board….

  29. Uh…? Off topic – Send me an email next time.

  30. nweyesk8 on December 23, 2007 - Reply

    i was following enemy combatants lead and discussing skateboards and/or skateboarding 🙂

  31. enemy combatant on December 23, 2007 - Reply

    Ringo was my fave Beatle!

  32. Oh crap, did Hef jump ship too? You know our friends at Rebel Skates have a variety of boards in the wheelbase length you mention.

  33. Yeah, and so does Cold War, actually. Go figure.

    Favorite Beatle? I refer you to the Meatmen song, One down, three to go? It’s a little out of date now, as far as the count goes.

  34. enemy combatant on December 23, 2007 - Reply

    What continues to amaze me is Keith Richard’s longevity.

  35. He actually looked somewhat healthy in his Seven Ages of Rock appearance. His hard drugging days must be behind him.

  36. nweyesk8 on December 23, 2007 - Reply

    i like the popsicle shapes though, and It is hard to find those with a wheelbase longer than 13″ 3/4. Yes, the Cold War boards i have been riding have a slightly longer, 14″1/4, one. I hadnt gone to a wheelbase this big in awhile. I mostly got the board for my recent spate of street skating, which started with setting up smaller wheels, 54mm, so i could actually get my tail to smack the ground on ollies.for the first time in nearly 10 years, I ollied a five stair and I bonelessed down a six stair on OSU campus.

  37. enemy combatant on December 23, 2007 - Reply

    “I ollied a five stair and I bonelessed down a six stair on OSU campus.”

    You need to go over to Sleestak. Nobody cares about that shit here. This is a music video website!

  38. nweyesk8 on December 23, 2007 - Reply

    I already got the song recorded, now I’m working on editing the footage….

  39. nweyesk8 on December 23, 2007 - Reply

    the working title is “slam fall”, it is a sequel to the ever popular “kick push”

  40. enemy combatant on December 23, 2007 - Reply

    I thought for sure that “slam fall” was the sequel to the bonelessed six stair!

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