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Nice and nostalgic for those who were there.
Potentially misleading and perhaps too long for those who were not
there and don't get the nostalgia.
My comments are more of a reaction than a review.
I won't pretend to be objective. I lived through this and experienced
it differently from the 'leading lights' who were interviewed in the
film. I met and even hung out with a few of the folks in the film over
the three years (1980-1982) when I was in and out of NYC and Philly
scenes. Of course, hardcore had not yet been commercialized at this
time and none of them were regarded as legends. It's great to see that
most of them are still true believers and haven't developed regrets,
but it's really odd that they are still saying exactly the same things
about HC that they were saying twenty years ago. Isn't hindsight
supposed to be 20/20 or something? Well... really... it's all a matter
of perspective, and that's the point of this review.
From 1979 to 1984 I was a member of a band which crossed over from punk
to hardcore in 1980. I began with them at the age of 14 and stuck
around until, as Ian Mackaye put it, "hardcore checked out". Being part
of the NJ/NYC punk community, and having grown up in a small rural town
in central Jersey, my perspective on the whole business is a bit
different.... But, again... that's the point, isn't it?
From my point of view, the film has one major flaw - Most of the
interviews seem to have developed out of a set of basic misconceptions:
(1) that hardcore was about something in particular, (2) that the
leaders of the most popular hardcore bands were somehow experts in what
hardcore was and (3) that the portion of the country where hardcore got
the most early media attention was somehow more important than the rest
of the world.
I was never a big fan of hardcore's regionalism (which was a big deal
in the scenes I was involved with) and was interested mainly in bands
which were original, energetic and fun regardless of where they came
from. Sadly, the east coast frequently exhibited symptoms of an
inferiority complex because of the commercial and media attention
California got - a couple of examples are the titles of early eastern
Punk and HC compilations:
Philadelphia: Get Off Our Backs We're Doing it Too. NYC: New York
Thrash and The Big Apple Rotten to the Core Boston: This is Boston, Not
Telling, ain't it?
Because of my own experiences, the interviews of NYC, Washington DC and
Boston band members resonated more strongly with me than the
California-centered stuff. Don't get me wrong, I loved the DKs, Black
Flag, the CJs, Fear, X, UXA, The Avengers, and many other
West-coasters, but I still reject the adoption of the archetype
American Punk lifestyle which was drawn out of stereotypes imported by
the mass media from California.
From my perspective, punk was truly anti-conformist, and CoC's comments
about the fascist anti-fascism that became a major component of HC late
in it's life were dead-on accurate. It's as if a whole bunch of fools
turned on Quincy, saw an inaccurate representation of slam dancing
based on things that were happening in particular parts of Southern
California (where Quincy was filmed) and all-of-a-sudden decided to get
mohawks and leather jackets and go beat up people at shows.
Maybe New York police have bigger and better things to do, but I do not
remember a single of the 100s of shows I went to or played which were
ever even threatened with a shut-down, let alone attracting the
attention of more than a few squad cars. And honestly, I don't remember
any NYC or Philly cops doing anything much worse than shaking their
heads and rolling their eyes during these incidents. Maybe NYC punks
were radically different from Calpunks, because I knew very few people
in HC and/or punk who would ever espouse hating any group of people in
a broad-brush manner such as police and hippies.
For me and most of my friends HC was a chance to have fun, get up on
stage and play, help other people have fun, and to express ourselves
socially and politically with an audience which could relate and
appreciated pretty much whatever you threw at them. Most of the
messages were against violence, against stereotyping, against
injustice, and even against drugs. And the bands all supported each
other, whether or not they agreed about politics, music or whatever.
Really nice. Sure the dancing got kind of rough at times, but it only
got really bad after that fateful episode of Quincy.
This is a good film. I was very excited to see the respect with which
the Bad Brains were treated and the range of excellent bands chosen for
the interviews. The film is really just a lengthy series of edited
monologues and dialogs from interviews conducted by the director. The
cinematography is straightforward and really nothing special - fine for
what was intended. There are relatively few musical interludes (mostly
poorly filmed cam-jobs), and no complete songs.
The film serves well as a memoir for old punks like myself, and a good
introduction to the major tropes and official mythology of the hardcore
movement for those of later generations. Don't mistake the generalizing
opinions of the interviewees (or mine for that matter) to be
representative of anything besides the individual opinions that they
are, however. And remember always - no matter what anybody says about
hardcore, Gang Green summed it all up better than anybody in their song
We just wanna have some fun
We just wanna have some fun
While we're young enough
To get away with it.
Tags for American Hardcore Full Movie
, Keith Morris
, Lucky Lehrer
, Vic Bondi
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