Hardcore for Nerds

"Why sneer at the intellectuals?"*
punk music, left politics, and cultural history - previously found here.
contact: gabbaweeks[at]gmail.com (sorry, no promos/submissions, thanks) or ask
Dublin, Ireland. 27, history, politics & law graduate
HFN | Best New Punk | HFN 2012 2011 2010 2009 | HRO 2k9 | Hoover Genealogy Project | @HC4N
*from the title of a review of Arthur Koestler's Arrival and Departure by Michael Foot, Evening Standard, Nov. 26, 1943.
Feb 02
Permalink

The Hate That Has No Name - Homophobia in 21st Century Ireland

I finally got around to reading this piece in the Gay Community News (pages 36-37 - h/t CLR) on the Radiators’ song ‘Under Clery’s Clock’, written by the sadly recently departed Philip Chevron. The department store clock on Dublin’s main O’Connell Street was a traditional meeting place for courting couples, but in the song Chevron makes it clear that he (or at least the narrator) is meeting a man. As the article notes, the song “was first performed at a reunion of the band for an Aids benefit gig in September 1987, and was released as a single in January 1989” - while homosexuality was not decriminalised in Ireland until the following decade. That said, I had no idea that Chevron was gay until his recent death, even though I’m a big fan of their Ghostown album - and hearing ‘Under Clery’s Clock’, without being informed of its historical context, I don’t think the gender pronouns struck me as particularly significant (or maybe I just wasn’t listening very carefully).

The GCN article also praises “Chevron’s genius as a songwriter […] by adapting a notorious line of poetry that had been used to help convict Oscar Wilde for homosexuality, ‘The love that dares not speak its name.’ In Chevron’s hands it became ‘The love that does not have a name.’” Ghostown is full of references to Irish literary history, and in particular in critiquing establishment cultural narratives, so the connection is not that surprising. It’s just a shame that I didn’t pick up on it earlier, or that the song - which Graham Linehan (the Father Ted writer?) described in Hot Press as “brazenly Irish, brazenly homosexual” (although he also criticised it as sounding like “an out-take from Oliver, the Musical" - the NME called it a “beautiful and haunting love ballad” and made it single of the week) - perhaps is not as well known today as it should be.

In the contemporary context, a referendum on the introduction of gay marriage is expected by 2015; and in the run-up to that campaign a group of high-profile members of right-wing Catholic think-tank recently wrote legal letters to the national broadcaster alleging defamation after a guest on a chat show described them as ‘homophobic’ - and received an apology and reportedly up to €85,000 in ‘damages’. As with the abortion debate, there is a worryingly successful attempt to define the terms of discourse and claim victimization by anyone who vocally opposes their extreme and socially offensive views on basic individual freedoms. Rather than try to convince an audience why their perspective on homosexuality is not homophobic, they claim that because homophobia is in essence associated with violent bigotry, their attempts at rational debate - however much they may be considered in bad faith, however disrespectful and malign they may be felt as by those with first-hand experience of ‘actual’ homophobia, however much the philosophical and legal denial of rights may be connected to everyday abuse - cannot be described using that word. Homophobia, therefore, is the hate that does not have a name in Ireland. 

Thankfully, there are many who dare speak its name, as they rightly should. I’m not wholly unsympathetic to the idea that the strongest terms be used sparingly in debate, but I’m also not someone who is exposed to homophobic abuse - even though I don’t personally consider myself to be entirely straight, I certainly ‘pass’ - or homophobic legal institutions. The clearest comparison I’ve seen is with race: we do not accept a right (at least here) not to be called ‘racist’ while criticising basic societal conceptions of equality between people of all colours; theoretically, such views are part of freedom of speech, but such freedom does not entail either an automatic platform nor a defence from criticism in the strongest possible terms. I’m not wholly sold on the idea that marriage equality is simply an inarguable issue of rights, although I support it on the basis that I see no reason or justification for the state to discriminate in favour of a ‘traditional’ definition of marriage. In other words, I’ll allow that there may be sincere objections to marriage equality, but the onus must be on the objectors to explain why they do not constitute homophobia; why they’re not based in the distrust of and unwillingness to accept alternative sexualities as full expressions of individual identity.

irish politics radiators from space 80s lgbt homophobia
Comments (View) | 4 notes
Jul 28
Permalink

Scream - ‘Fight/American Justice’

This is at least more obviously direct (re), and also a really great song. It’s cool to hear the reggae/dub influence - especially that echo at 1:58-2:00 - on Dischord hardcore so early, although it means it reminds me more of Operation Ivy than, say, Minor Threat (probably due to my spotty knowledge of actual hardcore than anything else, but whatever).

(Source: Spotify)

80s hardcore dischord
Comments (View) | 8 notes
Permalink

I just finished (over the course of a day or so) reading a George Pelecanos novel, Sweet Forever, set as usual in D.C., this time in 1986. One of the main characters goes to a Scream show at the 9:30 Club on coke and has disparaging thoughts about SxErs, but what stood out to me more as a fan of DC (post)hardcore was a passing reference to the actual Hain’s Point. It’s also one of the Marcus Clay books so a lot of the action takes place in record stores - with a few side comments about different racial and social demographics influencing the sales patterns - which means, the general theme being the coked-up 80s, that the book has all three of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll (in the broad sense). Of course, the real point of the book is the human waste of crime in the (predominately) black areas of D.C., and I feel like both it and Dischord are distant but not wholly distinct backgrounds of each other. I can’t explain.

(Source: Spotify)

dischord rites of spring george pelecanos books 80s
Comments (View) | 7 notes
May 14
Permalink

Editors - ‘A Ton Of Love’ (2013)

While we’re arguing about Savages, my actual favourite UK post-punk/Joy Division apers are due to release a new album, the first since 2009’s In This Light and On This Evening (which I wrote about here). It appears they have since lost their lead guitarist Chris Urbanowicz due to ‘differences in musical direction’ - I assume he was responsible for their shimmering, high-flying sound which is notably absent here. Instead, it feels dry, muted, spacious - and even more 80s. Rather than their previous gloomy Factory Records posturing updated for the modern taste in bombastic rock, it’s a throwback to the stadium rock of the day: Springsteen and U2 both come to mind. And I wouldn’t expect to like that, especially not the latter, but I really do.

There’s something to the lyrics, normally impenetrably vague, that resonates too: “now bathe my idle soul in… desire”; what could better, and more beautifully, describe the modern, materially sated human condition? And wrapped in the soft sax and ringing chords of the sound of the technological and economic liberation of the 80s; the decade in which a new openness promised everything, just as our crisis today is subsumed into the internet’s instant gratification. “I don’t trust the government” is a familiar and jaded cry, but “I don’t trust myself” is a more chilling sign of the breakdown between the individual and the collective. ‘Desire’ is the animating force of our capitalism, here expressed in pitch-perfect irony as the throwback sonic signifiers of pleasure, hope, and confidence.

Much better than manifestos about silence, I think (and their art, as always, is wonderful). 

(Source: Spotify)

editors 80s uk
Comments (View) | 6 notes
May 03
Permalink

Husker Du - ‘Dead Set On Destruction’ from Candy Apple Grey (1986)

Poptimism/punktimism [delete as appropriate] means to me: preferring Husker Du’s Warner Brothers albums Candy Apple Grey and Warehouse: Songs and Stories to New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig (Metal Circus and Zen Arcade are still gold, though). Their last two records are the best examples of Husker Du’s ‘pop’ sound, and the earlier two of the punk/post-hardcore sound. The middle two seem, well, transitional, and I’ve never really gotten into them. I don’t begrudge anyone else who has, of course.

This is interesting (if not surprising), though:

"Hüsker Dü was not expected to sell a large amount of records. Rather, Warner Bros. valued the group for its grassroots fanbase and its "hip" status, and by keeping the overhead low the label anticipated the band would turn a profit."

I should probably read Michael Azerrad’s book (from which the above is sourced) sometime, but as a non-musician and frankly someone who isn’t active in any kind of physical scene, it’s never particularly interested me; and more broadly, I don’t have much interest in the micro ‘process’ side of cultural production. I think it’s good if people recognise that art isn’t produced in a vacuum, and question the way in which artistic creation interacts with broader social and economic contexts; but at the same time I do tend to subscribe to the view of not particularly caring about artists’ personal or even professional lives as a lens through which to view their work. It is a creation, after all, which implies something distinct. On the other hand, it’s hard not be aware of such things if you’re historically sensitive: I wrote a thesis which substantially involved researching the unsavoury life of a man who wrote some intellectually valuable books in response to his time, but containing flaws both internal and external to himself. We love stories, to know the deeper meaning to things, which is a good instinct; but often it changes, and perhaps distorts, our appreciation of whatever meaning excited us about that book or album in the first place.

Then again, nothing lasts forever, which is kind of the point. 

(Source: Spotify)

husker du punk pop 80s NO PAST
Comments (View) | 5 notes
Mar 03
Permalink

"The riverbed, the hose, the Echoplex, the crazy levels and grimy heads, the weeks spent in sweaty denim - they all added to the recording something that was sonically crucial, but also stubbornly resistant to mastering it for vinyl. Every time a mastering engineer tried to make a lacquer disc of the music, the needle, as if in protest, would literally leap out of the groove. Finally, two mastering engineers, Bob Ludwig and Dennis King, discovered that if the levels were set extremely low they could just manage to get the thing on disc. The result was Nebraska, an album nearly too lo-fi for vinyl.”
Greg Milner, Perfecting Sound Forever

Another Columbia record, although this time it’s an original mass-produced pressing - on thin, light vinyl - I bought second-hand, rather than the heavyweight 2008 repressing of Grace. You can see the quality of the writing and the use Milner makes out of a familiar story, which segues into a  wonderful description of the material production of Springsteen’s next album Born in the USA as the first CD to be made in America, and onwards into the analog v. digital divide. 
I’m not a huge Springsteen fan, in fact I’m quite a small one: this is the only record I’ve bought, while I listen to Born To Run occasionally. But Nebraska is superb (especially if you can hear the Suicide influences). 

"The riverbed, the hose, the Echoplex, the crazy levels and grimy heads, the weeks spent in sweaty denim - they all added to the recording something that was sonically crucial, but also stubbornly resistant to mastering it for vinyl. Every time a mastering engineer tried to make a lacquer disc of the music, the needle, as if in protest, would literally leap out of the groove. Finally, two mastering engineers, Bob Ludwig and Dennis King, discovered that if the levels were set extremely low they could just manage to get the thing on disc. The result was Nebraska, an album nearly too lo-fi for vinyl.”

Greg Milner, Perfecting Sound Forever

Another Columbia record, although this time it’s an original mass-produced pressing - on thin, light vinyl - I bought second-hand, rather than the heavyweight 2008 repressing of Grace. You can see the quality of the writing and the use Milner makes out of a familiar story, which segues into a  wonderful description of the material production of Springsteen’s next album Born in the USA as the first CD to be made in America, and onwards into the analog v. digital divide. 

I’m not a huge Springsteen fan, in fact I’m quite a small one: this is the only record I’ve bought, while I listen to Born To Run occasionally. But Nebraska is superb (especially if you can hear the Suicide influences). 

springsteen vinyl 80s Perfecting Sound Forever
Comments (View) | 12 notes
Feb 20
Permalink

(Source: Spotify)

moss icon punk 80s emo
Comments (View) | 10 notes
Oct 31
Permalink

whenyrlivinginafascistdream said: do you dig No Trend at all? would be interesting to see a piece on them. great writing btw

honestly never heard of them. read this and didn’t seem like the kind of thing I’d like - anti-hardcore hardcore, sounds like the Minutemen who I’m sure are a great band but have never appealed to me. 

but their song 'Teen Love' seems to be popular on Tumblr (yes, it can be a useful cultural resources sometimes!) and is really rather excellent. will probably post that, and I’ll see if I find anything more that makes me want to write something… NO TREND PIECE!

thanks very much for the compliment! 

80s hardcore
Comments (View) | 3 notes
Sep 18
Permalink

Vinyl Sunday: Husker Du, Metal Circus; Hot Water Music, Never Ender (with artwork by SINC); Punch, s/t

from All Ages Records, Camden Town

00s 80s 90s hot water music husker du post-hardcore screamo vinyl sunday vinyl
Comments (View) | 14 notes
Apr 22
Permalink

Joy Division - ‘Decades’ from Closer (1980)

I really like dub, although I don’t listen to that much of it - a couple of albums each from Horace Andy and Augustus Pablo, basically. The originals are great, but its the dub influence on other bands, specifically punk and post-punk, that most interests me. It’s there in Fugazi, in Joe Lally’s bass which the Rolling Stone album guide describes as “three parts Joy Division to one part dub” on Steady Diet of Nothing; or in Hoover, whose guitarist Joseph McRedmond I asked to account for the influence, and he simply explained it as ”deep late night party music with your friends” and, perhaps referring more to the reggae side of it, “usually with a message”.

If the style is not perhaps very far below the surface on most Joy Division tracks, on this song it pretty much is the surface. Not so much in the bass which is usually associated with dub, but in the treble, the tinny melody and percussion that sits on top of a typical dub track, creating an epic contrast with the undulating subterranean rhythm; a kind of aural chiaroscuro, or Ansel Adams. Heavy skanking, gothic style. But just as dub creates an alternatingly oppressive and glorious atmosphere, so it is with this Joy Division album finisher.

60 plays
Joy Division dub 80s post-punk HFN
Comments (View) | 16 notes