I didn’t go see American Hardcore with the ladeez because I have been on a all company is bad company kick recently. I read the book when it came out, which ultimately was a waste of time, but I kind of wanted to see the movie anyway. Just for the live footage, you know being a girl that’s unable to pass up an opportunity to see punks on the big screen etc. Apparently it was pretty much a shitty version of one of those VH1 “I love the 90s!” talking heads shows, where washed up dudes talk about the crucialness of their pasts as their teeth and brains rot around them. It made me think about how sometimes the best documents of an era or a youth movement aren’t the ones that attempt to encompass every aspect and be totally definitive but instead are the ones that just focus on one thing and use that as a viewpoint onto the rest of the subculture. Two good examples of this are the Minutemen documentary, We Jam Econo and the Darby Crash book Lexicon Devil. Lexicon Devil to me at least provides so much of a better insight into the LA punk scene than We Got the Neutron Bomb, which is supposed to be the ultimate history of that time period. I definitely enjoyed reading ...Neutron Bomb, but it just tries to cover too much and loses something along the way. You get a vague sense of all the different scenes and subgroups but lose some of the context, the background information, the reasons why; things get reduced to bitchy scenester gossip and the energy and creativity of the early LA punks somehow doesn’t leave the page. Lexicon Devil, in using the trajectory of Darby Crash’s life as the focal point of the story is somehow able to vividly evoke the vitality and desolation of the era that he came from. Both books use the same format, which I guess could be seen as the literary version of the aforementioned TV show talking heads, where chapters are spliced together from different interviews so it reads like a continual anecdote rather than a straight biography. ANYWAY the point I was trying to make is that Lexicon Devil isn’t just a rose tinted “you hadta be there maaan’ glory days bio-pic. Part of it’s brilliance is the way it manages to convey the seediness of post Manson LA. The exodus of the dying hippie boomer culture feeding into the new mega-corporate yuppie death values, and even creepier post hippie cults. (Scientology anyone?) I think 1970s LA really demonstrates how far the ‘revolutionaries’ of the 60s went in betraying and exploiting for financial gain their former values and selves. (See also David Geffen and any ‘artiste’ signed to Asylum) After reading Lexicon Devil you understand more how this post-idealistic atmosphere combined with what was happening in London and New York, along with the sprawling nature of Los Angeles allowed for so many subcultures to grow without parental supervision or knowledge. It totally evokes that X song The Unheard Music, or the opening scenes of Suburbia with the dogs and the barren highways and abandoned suburban tracts. The size and sprawl of the city allow for a million scrappy scenes to emerge into each other. Darby Crash was formed by punk and by LA and Lexicon Devil really opens up that world in a way that makes him seem less of a cheap screenprinted mall punk t shirt and more human and part of a community of total outcasts and opportunists. The taint of the one industry nature of Los Angeles, ie the movie business, definitely created a different scene than in New York at the same time, which seemed more dominated by downtown art bohemia at least until NY hardcore took over. It also seems like a lot of the pre Hardcore/’81 punks really wanted to ‘make it’, but maybe that was one of the things that hardcore defined, the fact that you didn’t have to be on a major label to be an authentic musical experience and that making it was a false and incomprehensible dream.
It seems to be that unlike a lot of the more artsier bands from the same era that American Hardcore covers, hardcore bands were happier to exist in their own context. Did The Necros see the hardcore scene as some sort of gestation tank/place to establish themselves before they went onto a major like a lot of bands seem to now? People did things because they had to not because they wanted to turn their good times into a money making scheme. That may be me being overly idealistic but when you listen to, for example, the old Dischord 7”s there’s no sense of people wanting to exist outside of the community of bands and zines and kids that make up the world they currently existed in. People wanted to play other towns and meet similar minded kids but I don’t think the ‘making it’ idea comes into fruition in the hardcore context until the mid/late 80s. Again I might be being overly idealistic here.
We Jam Econo pretty much sums up why I am involved in DIY punk, as opposed to prog-electro trance or whatever else I could be stuck on. The idea that anyone can do something, and that the idea and excitement is more important that the execution. The idea that punk is ours to shape and the only reason it gets lame or tired is because you yourself are no longer able to get the same feelings and ideas from it or that you yourself are not making it exciting anymore. The goofiness, trueness and earnestness of the Minutemen is so apparent in every scene. Their music is like small explosions of ideas, arguments, feelings and so are they as people. Seeing that reinforces that punk or hardcore or whatever you want to call it is really about the people that make DIY happen, the individuals who endure endless interminable van rides to shows at Elks Clubs and basements, who form the audience who set up the shows and write the zines and the minimal monetary rewards for said exertions. Doing things to meet other people like you as opposed to white men in suits who wanna do lunch with you and who think your song would sound great in a Volkswagon commercial.
Sometimes I feel like mainstream music is so interchangable, like anyone could be Beyonce, any girl from any Dallas suburb with an ok voice who is willing to diet and devote her life to the worship of herself. I don’t mean that in an American Idol way, like Dare to Dream! You Can Be Beyonce! More like there is a mold and now there are studio tricks that can fix people’s out of tune singing you don’t even have to be able to carry a tune to be a singing sensation. So any unformed wannabe can be poured into that mold, then once they’ve made it, they can develop the ‘personality’ that makes them distinguishable from all the other Avril’s, Jewel’s and Ashanti’s. Punk doesn’t make sense to me in that context. Why do bands want to exist in a world where the thing that is the most exciting freeing idea of all is reduced to the same terminology that everything else in the music industry is grinded to a pulp with. Why would you want the thing you do for fun to be your job? I mean yes it sure would beat working at Walmart or whatever, but punk is not supposed to be your job. It’s supposed to be the thing you use to make your own world outside of their’s. The only thing I can think of that would make it acceptable would be to use the ideas that you got from punk in order to change the way you look at work itself. Punk is not a job. Punk is an idea. It’s free so don’t fuck it up for the rest of us.
Anyway other people have made these points way more eloquently than I have here, I guess I just have been thinking about the American Hardcore movie a lot recently. Partly because of the weirdness of having a New York Times movie reviewer reference early 80s hardcore, and just having the apolitical moronic white dude centric American Hardcore be the mainstream touchstone for a culture I feel strongly about and even part of sometimes. Reading Lexicon Devil makes it clear that there were so many girls and queers and people of color involved in the scene, and it’s so depressing that that just gets whitewashed out because for whatever reason Steven Blush gets to be the dude that defines a culture for that art house dinner party audience.
It’s CMJ week as I write this, and a lot of my friend’s bands are playing showcases there. That whole thing is so totally bogus to me, so boring and tame. Who wants to play a ‘showcase?’ It’s such a high school talent show idea of music. NO AGE from LA are playing a free show with a bunch of other similar minded folks at the same time in the same town that looks way more inspiring than some tired industry meet’n’greet. NO AGE come from a scene that demonstrates a similar idea about LA that I was trying to express earlier, the way that things are able to exist and growin the cracks that exist in a town like LA perhaps because the mainstream there can’t even comprehend not wanting to have your own reality TV show or be on Warped Tour. I think this is especially true in the way that The Smell, the all ages DIY space that they volunteer at, has become an incubator for an ‘our world not theirs’ idea of music that I think is kind of separate from the LA traditional punk/hardcore scene AND the mainstream LA ‘gotta make it’ scene. The fact that downtown LA is so rapidly gentrifying has obviously changed things for the kids that hang out there and run the space and are in bands that play there, and I think I am gonna write more about that in another column/thing for this publication. I just wanted to use NO AGE as an example because I think maybe they are not playing ‘actual’ CMJ (so are they fucking with it or reinforcing it?) but they come from a DIY perspective and make most sense at sweaty basement shows. Like THE SCREAMERS it seems they denounce the value of putting out an actual record, and instead have a DVD you can send off for which you should because they are really cool and inspiring. I think they definitely have that thing that the old LA punk scene had where people were able to exploit the obliviousness of the media culture in LA and make their own kicks in random spots of seeming desolation. NO AGE is an idea explosion, it’s kind of hard to explain but it seems more potent and transformative than their last band THE WIVES. Email firstname.lastname@example.org suckers.
This random incoherant writing was mostly actually inspired by the fact that Slim Moon sold his interest in Kill Rock Stars and is going to be working in A&R for a major label in New York. How ironic is that? Naming your record label for the thing that you are ultimately going to end up attempting to make happen; I guess it turns out what we needed was MORE rock stars. I had more to say about that but I guess I am unable to make sense of it all right now, so maybe more of that later.
Anyway. Not much of a top ten right now.
1-acid reflux demo- so good!! live they were amazing
and the demo is totally going to be up yr street if
you like the pick your king 7" or you know, good
music. email! email@example.com they have
a 7" coming out on the dude from government warning's
label i think. check them out. albany wolfpack yo.
2-standing in front of poseur by red cross. the
vocals: pre pubert ear bleed! 3-unvalued- vertite
cashee 7" 4-massmedia 12" (thanks martin! i'll take it
to go girl) 5-the beginning spoken word part of Joe
Tex's Be Cool (Willie is Dancing with a Sissy) 6-going
to disneyland next week and having The Eyes song stuck
in my head as a result 7-not liking one of golnar's
jams. the song from the italian comp with the choros
no no no no. i don;t know what it's called but it's
not killer. 8-missed connections. bummer. 9-lungfish
feral hymns 10-standin on the corner by dorothy berry