I used to be a hardcore kid. And then I grew up. This has been due to two main reasons. The people (as always) and the music itself as an extension of that.
About the people: This is something that applies to my local “scene” (1)(2), but is likely to have been experienced elsewhere as well, so I figured I’d take my rant here on the off chance the people I’m referring to read it. People in this “scene” here only seem to accept you, if you adhere to their standards. Which is a ridiculous concept because hardcore used to be about non-conformism and finding your own identity in an oppressive environment. But that’s what it has devolved into. And I’m not a begrudging, middle-aged dude coming to terms with his settled-in lifestyle who longs for what something meant to him. I’m still a kid barely over twenty.
Hardcore, to me, was pretty much laid out by Black Flag. I state them above Minor Threat or Born Against because within their politics and sound I always registered the most change and the most influence for modern hardcore. As fantastic and as terrible (in case of some bands) as that may be. And via Black Flag, hardcore has been defined to me by a work ethic and an attitude that represented a genuine opposition to what went on around them. It’s not about going to shows and listening to fast, hard music. It’s about change. But that’s not what I’m experiencing here. At all.
You have to know the people at shows, or at least the organizers. You have to dress in black, with a nondescript zip-up hoodie and band patches. If you do not participate in the pit, you are clearly not hardcore. Now this doesn’t necessarily bother me, because I honestly don’t want to belong to any clique BUT these judging looks and rude demeanor are more suited to a fictional high-school or elite social circles. It is precisely this rigidness that has also turned me away from attending some shows. There’s this quote by Scott Vogel (3) that runs: “Hardcore is meeting a kid from halfway across the world for the first time and feeling like you have known him or her for all your life. Hardcore is driving eight hours when you are flat broke to see a band most people would say that can’t play their instruments and that you can’t understand their singer. Hardcore is knowing that your phone bill will kill you. Hardcore is road trips, touring and meeting people. Hardcore is a teacher. Teaching we are all equal, that colours or sexual preferences don’t matter. Hardcore teaches that animals are not ours to kill(4) and to open your mind and question everything.”
But it can’t be the only teacher. And for some reason all the “hardcore people” here that I’ve come to now just take this somewhat utopian beauty of conscious acting that runs through the veins of hardcore and use it as an excuse to be self-righteous pricks that complain about a lot of things without actually doing something. I’m not talking about extreme actions, but simply becoming active. Join an NGO, hell found one for all I care. But don’t just complain about the government or the media when you might as well be the change yourself. There’s something Nietzsche put quite well way back when, and oddly enough this has been spread around some Tumblrs too. “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” If that statement rings true then why do you only keep hardcore people around you at all time? My douchebag friends (5) study sociology, architecture, educational science, work full-time as bartenders, social workers or builders. And while I may not agree with them on some points, I learn something new all the time without even realizing. Don’t close yourself off from people just because their (musical) interests don’t overlap with yours. It’s childish and will stunt your knowledge. Don’t be proud of the fact that everyone in your circle thinks like you. (6)
The second point is something that has become admittedly better, but still bothers me. The music or rather the lack of permeability in this genre. Far too many people take a blueprint and run with it, instead of trying to carve out an identity on their own. In 1998 Refused released “The Shape of Punk To Come” an all-around wake-up call and a visionary piece of music. (7) They evolved from a simple four-chord band to an incredible ensemble that tried to push hardcore towards a new iteration. Sadly though, the shape of punk never really came. No musical project has to be groundbreaking. Or well-spoken. Or “good” for any set of principle. It’s about expression. And while you may feel you’re singing your heart out about something important and deep think about it. And I don’t mean just pondering why you’re doing this. Go deep. Reflect. Have you really experienced the sort of terror and frustration you’re referencing, or are you not just regurgitating examples of significance you picked up elsewhere? Is this really your life, your struggle? Because honestly, at least in these circles I know a bunch of “artists” and I’m know there’s a big dissonance in the image they’ve crafted for themselves with their stage presence and their actual lives. So try to create something different, even within the cornerstones of a hardcore sound. Be more open. That’s what I’m trying to do. I know I won’t be very successful in the attempt. But godsdammit, I’m trying.
And while we’re at it, please broaden your horizon a bit. Hardcore is not the end-all be-all of music. I like that stuff just as much as the next guy, but there’s so much more out there that you will love. And don’t act like it’s the toughest, hardest music available when there’s the sheer terror of Wolf Eyes or old Earth to be experienced. Or the crushing sounds of Iancu Dumitrescu and Glenn Branca. Or the emotional rawness of Shellac’s “Prayer to God”. There are fantastic ideas and sounds to be experienced, don’t shut yourself out.
And that’s why even though my wardrobe too consists of jeans/bandshirts/hoodies/Vans, I still go to shows, I sing along with Converge lyrics etc. etc. I can’t identify with hardcore all that much anymore. Just think for yourselves, people.
(1) Whatever these stupid terms mean, I know you catch my drift.
(2) Look, annotations!
(3) Published in: http://www.myspace.com/istandalonezine/blog
(4) While I must say I think vegetarian/vegan politics are not intrinsically hardcore, I’m gonna leave it here, since most people seem to think this way now.
(5) Love you, gais.
(6) And for the love of Satan, if you’re on Tumblr complaining about other Tumblrs why are you following people you detest in the first place? I follow just sixty people. Wanna know why? It’s because these people post things I enjoy processing. The beauty of modern media is being able to select while still finding a common knowledge base.
(7) Honestly, if you haven’t heard it, seek it out immediately. It is one of the finest examples of musical evolution and a beautiful beast of hardcore.