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One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. -Nietzsche

  August 10, 2008

What you missed from 80s punk, hardcore, and related inspired disruptions

Punk and hardcore incubated into a powerful hybrid strain that flourished in several major cities, but grew best in California where hope, pretense, beauty, dystopia, potential, and disillusionment fused into an explosive genre of alienation, unrestrained critique, and open dissent that diverged from the happy pacifist movements that preceded it.

These genres became known for a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) approach that arose from the complete disbelief in existing structures and a broad skepticism of humanity. Instead, self-reliance and hyper-activism were seen as the way forward. When everything around you fails and most people are content to live in a sterile, insular, artificial world, anyone who wants more from life must create it themselves. This same lack of systemic faith is voiced today in other forms, such as home and private schooling that considers the public version a hopeless dead end, organic food as a return to health and alternative to low quality mass chemical farming, or the common desire for personal wealth so people can buy their way out of doomed systems of collective failure.

While everyone else was passively rolling along with whatever happened, punk and hardcore bands were screaming furiously about real problems that most people had become accustomed to and now considered normal. Whether endless bogus wars, society's collapse into incoherency, or the daily grind that drains the human spirit and reduces people to blinking meat, beyond the angry vocals and distorted guitars was a legitimate idea sounded by those who foresaw the looming fate of canaries fluttering in the coalmine.

To speak the forbidden, point out consequential mistakes, and indict leaders who irresponsibly feign solutions is a sure path to ostracism, but also benefits society when legitimate problems are placed on display and can no longer be hidden by distractions and demands for silent tolerance. Though hugely critical and unhopeful about civilization's success, honest critique has always been a positive contribution and necessary counterbalance to projects veering off course. The underlying motives seen in punk and hardcore are the same as those all healthy people have, only there is a more critical eye cast on collateral damage, self-serving approaches, phony politeness, and the cliched lies we are expected to repeat to show we are harmless non-thinkers who comply, never resisting even blatant errors and foolishness.

When alternatives are taken away but are unsuitable for addressing actual needs, nature finds a new path. Punk and hardcore exemplify this process, bursting forth with a vigor appropriate for the urgency of their message and the dangerous despair their articulators recognized.

D.R.I. (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles)
Innovators of speed and energy known for short, rapid blasting songs, this Texas band rejected docile passivity in a world with real problems that go ignored and unaddressed. Their music is active dissent inspired by the failures that define modernty.

I don't need society
Commuter Man
Balance of Terror
My Fate to Hate

Recommended: Dealing with it, Crossover, Four of a Kind
"The last time we played here there was a riot."
This clip shows a good example of California punk attitude and free expression before the era of politically correct self-censorship. After a few minutes of spiteful sarcasm, insults, and fighting with audience members, they launch into an inspired set. They don't make crowds like these anymore, nor could moderns understand such an appearance.

I Don't Care About You
Beef Bologna

Recommended: The Record
The Exploited
Spasmodic anarchic Englishmen suspicious of those who lead every misery inducing system, this band wrote throbbing anthems of rebellion as their countermeasure. Though their popular song Fuck the USA was catchy straight-ahead punk, their talents were inconsistant and only periodically offered a glimpse into their ideological intentions.

Troops of Tomorrow

Recommended: Dead cities

Glenn Danzig's dark vehicle matches simple but capable melodies with a straight-head driving pulse for his masterful vocals. Songs are assertively short and crisp, crafted tightly around tension and rhythmic focus that resolve into spirited choruses.

As the band's name suggests, this music is the inspired view of an outsider who does not belong. Death, escape, violence, and horror are constant themes and though real, are upsetting to the timid who are accustomed to the placid comfort of their fictional bubble world.


Recommended: 12 Hits From Hell, Walk Among Us, Static Age, Box Set
Minor Threat
A cornerstone of Washington DC hardcore, Minor Threat led the "straight edge" movement that revolted against oversocialized consumption by denying themselves alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and sex. In their song "Out of Step", frontman Ian MacKaye suggested these things were merely unimportant distractions. Seeking clarity by stepping back from assumptions, such experiments with asceticism birth new alternatives by removing people from their comfortable patterns of self-induced madness.

Watch the entire hall explode at 1:16 when the music starts.

Small man, big mouth

Recommended: Complete Discography
Dead Kennedys
California hardcore and punk collide with mockery and frustration over social dysfunction, abusive power, and mainstream stupidity. Sarcastic and a slap in the face of authority, this band sees the state of humanity as a total diaster and its future as a barren wasteland of Huxleian extremity.

Holiday in Cambodia

Recommended: Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables
Black Flag
This seminal California band is based around Greg Ginn's abstract atonality and dissonant structures that cast violent doubt on society's framework, yet unhesitatingly forge forward. The disciplined composition communicates explorations of insecurity and dissatisfaction that are rich in their fervor and bitter substance. Over two decades after its release, the essence these songs captured remains powerful and fresh.

Rise Above
American Waste

Recommended: Damaged
Bonus: Slayer
Slayer recorded an album of punk covers called Undisputed Attitude as a tribute to their punk roots with an aggression that emphasized the raw nihilistic recklessness of punk meeting the modernity's speed and anger. Since the time punk appeared, nothing has been solved and the explosive potential it expresses has only increased. Compare this with their classic 1986 release Reign in Blood, still a high water mark for metal.

Abolish Government / Superficial Love

Recommended: Reign in Blood
Prev: The Beautiful and the Ugly
Next: Sit back and enjoy the carnage

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