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Friday, September 01, 2006

We're not the first/I hope we're not the last

Do we really need another film about punk rock? It depends on what it covers. If it's on something that hasn't been explored enough in film, then by all means yes.

American Hardcore is based off of Steven Blush's oral history/reference book on American hardcore between 1981 and 1985. The book has come in handy with a lot of information for my book (ie, Gainesville's Roach Motel's recorded output, straight edge's influence, early days of Dischord), but if you're expecting American Hardcore to be like Our Band Could Be Your Life, read Our Band Could Be Your Life. Blush comes across as someone who feels that hardcore came and went solely between 1981 and 1985. The word/idea 'hardcore', just like punk, has evolved into different meanings over the years, but that's not the case with telling the story of American hardcore, at least in Blush's eyes.

I argue that you can't read American Hardcore like a start-to-finish novel. Like a really good encyclopedia, it works in bits and pieces and not necessarily in order. If you read it from beginning to end, you hear over and over again about how some band forms, puts out a great 7" or two, makes an awesome album and either breaks up or goes metal (aka, they started sucking according to Blush). While a lot of the stories are incredibly thorough, you don't really get to know who these people really are.

American Hardcore seems like everything and the kitchen sink was put in, but the human-ness was left out for space. Plus, Blush often comes across as a rather narrow-minded fan of music in that hardcore is the be-all, end-all. I thought of that Vision song, "Close Minded" from time to time (sample lyric, "Everyone tells me I’m close minded/If it’s not punk rock, I’m never gonna like it"). Sorry guys, I take to the idea of punk rock like the Minutemen did: be your true self instead of a close-minded lemming.

All this said, I'm really looking forward to American Hardcore the documentary. We have the classics Another State of Mind and The Decline of Western Civilization, but they only tell parts of the overall story. Punk: Attitude briefly mentions hardcore while We Jam Econo talks about the idea of punk through the eyes of the Minutemen. None of these films focus too much on what Blush's book talks about, so I argue there's enough space right there. While I may have the same gripes with the film as I do with the book, I look forward to hearing stories told by people like Keith Morris, Ian MacKaye and Henry Rollins. Say what you will about these guys, but they are well-spoken storytellers.

I argue that the telling of a story involving a musical genre needs a lot of views. No one picture can tell the whole darn story (unless it's a 10-hour Ken Burns documentary), so the more the merrier. I'd much rather have American Hardcore, We Jam Econo, Another State of Mind and The Decline around on DVD than some worn-out VHS tapes of CHiPs and Quincy episodes dealing with stereotypical, troubled punks. This is how you honor great music with all its forms of documentation. There is plenty more of a story to tell with later years with post-hardcore, ska-punk and so on. I look forward to what all comes next.

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