American Hardcore: A Meditation

There are many privileges, in my opinion, about living in Southern California (along with, of course, many disadvantages), and one of them is getting to see the movies that don’t come out in most other places. Now, I normally don’t get too excited about going to the movies, but, a documentary? On music? About Minor Threat, Black Flag and Bad Brains? Sign me right the fuck up.

Punk inspired/derived movies are usually an incredible bummer. Take, for example, Punk: Attitude, which came out a few years ago. Complete and utter shit. Horrible. A thrown together, woefully incomplete, highlight reel that might as well have been made by MTV. And it wasn’t, which could have also been the biggest bummer.* 1991: The Year Punk Broke contained some of my favorite bands in the world, ever, but it was suuuuuuuper boring. And barely “punk” related. The Decline of Western Civilization is mildly entertaining because everyone in it is so absolutely fucked up. It looks, however, like it was made by the Channel 4 news in their spare time, and there’s no real information in it. Decline 2: The Metal Years was way better, but I digress. SLC Punk, though, is really good for some reason.

Needless to say, I approached American Hardcore with much trepidation. My reasoning was, “Even if I just get to see a bunch of Black Flag and Minor Threat clips I’ve already seen on the big screen, that’ll still be cool.” The book it’s based on, American Hardcore: A Tribal History is a rad book. Kinda confusing, but really fascinating to me. Since I am a gentleman and a scholar, and have read pages upon pages of essays about punk, I didn’t really intend to learn anything new.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m sitting in the movie theater and the screen goes dark, and fucking Banned In DC starts playing, I nearly loose my shit. In a good way. So we’re off to a good start.

It’s a similar phenomenon to watching Lord Of The Rings: you know and love the story, and you’re suprised that the film pulls off all this stuff that’s supposed to be just a part of your imagination. So maybe it’s not LOTR, but I didn’t think there was any way “they” could’ve gotten right all this stuff that has been such a big part of me for so many years. I really didn’t think the movie could come close to what I know it should be.

But I’m pleasantly surprised. It was (pretty much) all there. It reminded me of Dogtown and Z-Boys, stylistically. Ian, Henry, Greg Ginn, HR… they talked to the right dudes. I wondered where Adam Yauch, Glenn E. Friedman and Chuck Dukowski were, however, but other than that (and maybe Ray Cappo… but more on that later), everyone was there. Unfortunately, some douchebags were there that probably shouldn’t have been (Dicky Barrett- I’m looking at you), but whatever. They even had a piece on the Adolescents (Steve Soto’s lost a ton of weight. Gastric Bypass?)! TSOL! My friend Kimm was on there!

And it wasn’t just a bunch of reused old footage. I have seen, I think, every bit of filmed evidence of Minor Threat, so AHC gets a pass on that one. But seeing Rollins knock the fuck out of a heckler on the big screen was remarkable. There was rad Bad Brains footy too. What else? Pretty much every band that mattered, and some that really didn’t, but it’s always good to err on the side of too much info as opposed to too little. But there was nowhere near enough Misfits, for god’s sake.

As Ian Mackaye (ma-kiye, thanks Jerm) said, Minor Threat was a good band, talent wise. Most of the bands are incredibly tight. Bad Brains were robots created to play incredibly fast and tight. Black Flag: practice, 8AM, Christmas morning. Enough said. Listen to a “modern” punk record: that shit is tres horrible.

Dawn brought up that she thought they should have gone into what hardcore punk evolved into- namely present day hardcore. Which is a good point. It was fine without it, but it could have been interesting to hear what Ray of Today or CIV had to say. Maybe.

And of course, there was a punker in the theater mouthing off the whole time. Fuckin gutter punks.

But yeah- it was good. Could have been a lot worse.

*[It was made by Don Letts, who was allegedly big in the late 70’s British punk scene. You’d assume he’d know better. Actually, I wouldn’t assume. I know better than to trust the preachers of the 70’s punk gospel.]

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