American Hardcore Review

American Hardcore, based on the book American Hardcore: A Tribal History explores the American punk rock movement of 1979 through 1986. So where were you in the early 80s? I was in a post Carter, Star Wars funk, learning what it was to be close to a decade old, and that girls were suddenly cute. Reagan was taking office, and the Eagles were topping the charts with "Hotel California". It was the period of time when being American had a sense of pride that was bottled up in neon and aqua net, and sold at this new place called "The Mall". Polo shirts and thin ties were in, and being hip meant you had MTV and snorted Coke. It was also about this time that kids in LA and Orange County were getting pissed off about the whole scene, and found 3 chords and screaming poetry at the top of their lungs was a way to express this angst. Low and behold, a new, exciting, rambunctious musical movement started- American punk rock.

What was a punk, and do they exist today? The film takes a very thorough approach, and was successful in finding almost every band member from every band on the punk scene in the early 80s. These, now 30 and 40 somethings, describe themselves as having a need to be anything but what was the status quo. If long hair was hip, they were bald, if drugs and drinking was cool, they were clean and sober, if songs were long and slow, they wrote songs that were short and fast. It was all about protest. They expressed the view of what they called the unrepresented left to the unabashed embracing of the right. Contrast and raw emotion- that was American punk.

The film covers the early roots of bands like Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Black Flag, SSD, and D.O.A. Interviews include Henry Rollins, Greg Hetson, Flea, Greg Ginn, Joey "Shithead" Keithley, Paul "H.R." Hudson, Al Barile, and so on. It also takes you on a geographic journey as the movement spread from southern California to Washington D.C. and NY.

The most striking element, and what makes this film fun to watch is just how deep it gets into what generally amounts to a small and short lived moment in American History. Yet, like most who are reading this review, we all know at least one or two of these bands. You get a sense of what it was like touring across the country on your own dollar, and playing gigs in people's backyards or tiny clubs. Rachman is able to feed the audience the adrenaline of the moments, and lets the artists tell the stories.

If you are a fan of 80s punk, or just interested in musical history, see this film. It answered questions about things I was too young to understand at the time, and gave me a respect for those bands and their ideas. If you never understood hardcore punk, now is the chance to get clarity. If you are a fan this film is a must. I would say "rock on" but I think the correct statement to close this article is to tell you to "Shove it up your fucking A." Enjoy.

"American Hardcore" opens September 22, 2006 and is rated R. Documentary. Directed by Paul Rachman. Written by Steven Blush. Starring Greg Ginn, Ian MacKaye, Lucky Lehrer, Vic Bondi.



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