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.
Jun 17
White Lung are a modern creation, their kohl-streaked punk more Black Sails in the Sunset than Black Flag

White Lung: Deep Fantasy | Album Reviews | Pitchfork

a) I can really hear a lot of Nitro Records in this album, which excites me albeit in a slightly nostalgic way (see below). It makes me hope they do reach the wider audience suggested, because I can image hearing this as a teenager and being both thrilled and somewhat frightened - as I was when I first listened to the Punkzilla compilation and then bought my first AFI album, The Art of Drowning, genuinely afraid it would make me into a ‘goth’ (ironically the then-precursor of ‘emo’ as shorthand for social outcast). 

b) Not to nitpick, but Black Sails in the Sunset (1999) is just as far away from the present as it is from Black Flag’s My War (1984). I’m not quite sure when the first half of the line refers to - “Though often positioned in the lineage of bands from a time when Lollapalooza was a traveling circus” - but I’m guessing, including from context, early-to-mid 90s. I’m fascinated by the idea of current bands performing in styles that can be seen as throwbacks to the late-90s/early-00s, since that was the context in which I first really got into music, but of course it’s still a bit too recent to be historicised that easily.

c) “2014’s other high-profile, high-BPM, sub-half-hour feminist punk LP" - Tumblr, discuss. I mean, again it’s not that fair to focus just on one condensation of words, and I think it’s really great that both Mish Way and Meredith Graves explore feminist themes and issues in their lyrics as well as fronting awesome bands, and of course it’s not for me to decide - or exclude - but what exactly is ‘feminist punk’? Does it need to be a separate category, or is that chaining it to the legacy of Bikini Kill? (Or am I misreading it and it’s actually a punk LP which is feminist - or does it even matter?)

white lung punk afi
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May 14
It’s hard to talk about commodification in music without making it sound like you’re attacking other bands. I’m not attacking other bands. I’m attacking a [messed]-up system.

Daniele Daniele, Priests (via jennpelly)

This article has the WORST headline: ‘Noise and sweat and Marx and Chipotle - D.C.’s Priests redefine punk for 2014’ but it’s actually quite interesting. Actually, I clicked through mainly to see how bad it was, and it wasn’t, so maybe Jeff Bezos-era WaPo has got good game…

Also relevant to this part of that Astra Taylor interview.

(via jennpelly)

internet economics punk
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Apr 18
Permalink vinyl punk
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Apr 08

Nothing to do with hardcore, and (‘original’/70s) punk aesthetics is a whole subject in itself, but I’ve always been fascinated by the Ramones’ aesthetic development. Partly because I bought reissue CDs that had booklets talking about the album, and inevitably making some remark about the cover, but whether as a result of that or because they’re rather striking anyway, I’ve got the schema stuck in my head: The classic debut pose, reprised for their third album, but in between the artier Leave Home and followed by the cartoonish reduction of Road to Ruin; then the abandoning of leather jackets for the pursuit of full-colour pop with Phil Spector, followed by the abandonment of portraits altogether for Pleasant Dreams, before they reappeared more murkily on Subterranean Jungle and Too Tough to Die (thereafter I stop listening to Ramones albums). Top picture is Arturo Vega (who died last year, sadly) painting their iconic logo - in colour. And then there’s this picture, presumably from the photoshoot for End of the Century.

ramones punk art
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Tobi Vail Interviews Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves


A very interesting (and long-ish) interview, not in the least because of discussing fashion from a feminist/punk perspective for much of it (as an aside, the question above struck me as odd, since for me hardcore - or at least post-hardcore - is very much about visual aesthetics. But how much that is really typical and is engaged with critically, I can’t say)

I totally understand where Meredith is coming from, but what she’s really talking about is not a lack of aesthetic but very much “the aesthetic of no aesthetic,” which is to say, a scene in which the party line is to appear as if you don’t care how you look or what you wear. But if people REALLY didn’t care about their aesthetics, having the members of Perfect Pussy show up in unusual outfits wouldn’t be an issue. Instead, it becomes a stance to be enforced: “If you’re not wearing plain black clothing with a short, unobtrusive haircut, we’re gonna frown in disapproval at you.” And that was (and is) an aesthetic of hardcore in the more orthodox, less innovative scenes within the movement.

Look at the late 80s youthcrew scene that produced Youth Of Today and Gorilla Biscuits, for example—athletic clothes and crewcuts were de rigeur, and anyone that stepped outside that style was looked at askance. And yet, all those bands would probably have told you that they weren’t going for any particular visual aesthetic. They perceived themselves as being sincere and not conforming to any particular aesthetic principles, instead wearing “whatever they had on that day.” But in taking that stance, they unwittingly enforced some pretty strict rules about what it was “acceptable” for a hardcore kid to do with their fashion sense.

It’s funny that I’m talking about this, actually, because it’s been an issue for me pretty much my whole life. I’ve been straight edge since I was 15, but I’ve always preferred to have long hair, and I never hid the fact that I was into stuff like metal and alternative rock even when I was going to pretty straightforward sXe shows in the early 90s. Kids used to think I was lying about being straight edge because I had long hair; the funniest thing that ever happened in relation to that was when a younger kid I knew, who met me when I was in my mid-20s and he was still a teenager, told me I would be “more straight edge” if I shaved my head. I told him I was pretty sure that by not drinking, smoking, or doing drugs, I was already as straight edge as was humanly possible. He looked at me like I was crazy.

I could also tell some pretty funny stories about the last couple of years Tri State Killing Spree were together, when I got it into my head to start playing shows in hotpants and glittery fishnet tights. I shaved my legs at the time, too, and we did several out of town shows with me dressed like that at which the kids in the crowd were visibly recoiling from me because my gender presentation was so unlike what their idea of a hardcore singer should be. It was glorious, I must say.

There was another response which I don’t really trust myself to respond to fairly (or at least productively), but I think the substantive point is pretty much the same as yours: hardcore as “anti-aesthetic”, or the aesthetic of no-aesthetic (I’d further suggest ‘negative aesthetic’, since it sounds the most like a hardcore band name). There’s both an effect in terms of discouraging atypical forms of expression and, despite itself, a style - harsh, frequently violent, derived from cheap photocopying and the fetishised lack of technical skills in punk - which ironically is the punk ‘aesthetic’ most easily incorporated into modern fashion through band t-shirts, etc. But what I want to unpack a little is why the idea of aesthetics in relation to punk and hardcore means something rather different to me, and in many ways in opposition to that: ‘emo’, post-hardcore and even progressively-inclined punk/hardcore (from Refused to Fucked Up) seems to strive away from that limited, often literally black-and-white aesthetic. I realise I’m talking about subsets of a genre, and it’s not meant to disprove Meredith Graves’ statements - which seem particularly valid both in relation to local scenes and to a persistent trend in hardcore more generally - but my ‘experience’, for what it’s worth, and which is essentially as an outsider perusing a genre and its history from a distance, choosing which styles to follow, is that a “strong aesthetic” is perfectly compatible with both punk and hardcore (which is really implicit in the beginning of her answer, anyway).

However, that is much less so if hardcore is taken to mean ’80s hardcore’ or is limited to a scene where that is the case, rather than as a genre that has fractured into at times heavily aestheticised scenes (Three One G?) or split off into post-hardcore in order to create space for that aesthetic expression (Husker Du, Revolution Summer-era Dischord, anything 1990s Dischord especially Nation of Ulysses, and basically anything in the screamo/skramz/whateveryoucallit field). Bikini Kill and Riot Grrl are one further splinter in that, which perhaps focused more than anything on reappropriating the visual and linguistic aesthetic of punk towards explicitly feminist ends. Whereas the emo/post-hardcore aesthetic is not necessarily as progressive - there’s a whole thing about Moss Icon using Central American imagery I’m not wholly comfortable with - and tended more towards an abstract, post-industrial feel (though compared to earlier punk/hardcore it was often more humanist - e.g. Rites of Spring), but it was I think consciously an aesthetic in a way which strict hardcore negated. And I think missing out on this history also plays into the idea that Perfect Pussy are merely a revitalisation of some hidebound genre rather than a further flourishing of what is has been a long expansion of punk aesthetics, notwithstanding the constant challenges of conservatism within the community itself.

punk post-hardcore
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Apr 06
Permalink perfect pussy punk bikini kill
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Mar 26

Mahria - ‘Save Yourself’ from Self-Titled LP

"Good luck kidding yourself for a little bit longer. It’s all going to come crashing down."

H/t to @ianmaleney for reminding me about this band

49 plays
emo screamo punk
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Mar 08


Some thoughts

I quite like this, it hits my favourite ‘emopeggio’ notes and ends up sounding like Jawbreaker/Jets to Brazil cast backwards through their adjacent past of abrasive hardcore (though I kinda wish they were still a bit more abrasive). It also made me revisit Perfect Pussy’s last track, ‘Driver’, which I had thought was too Fucked Up for my taste but I now notice has an understated melody which much improves it. I like the phrase “the widescreen vision of ecstatic, personal-political dream-punk” as well.

(Source: pitchfork / capturedtracks)

perfect pussy punk
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Feb 27
Nowadays I teach about punk in universities, to sophisticated New York students. Many of them regard LGBT rights as the last remaining major social issue of their generation (and that’s not to diminish their importance). Getting the correlation between, say, the Clash’s White Riot and the group’s own experience of conflict, and seeing how it describes the street fighting Britain of the time, sometimes comes as a surprise. The immediacy of pop reacting in protest is not dead, but it is no longer necessarily expected, and the life support is beeping.
punk history
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Jan 08
Sometimes Graves’ radical, spiritual mantras sound like she’s been reading Eastern philosophy or maybe the texts of conceptual artist Jenny Holzer— “I AM FULL OF LIGHT”; “IN THE ABSENCE OF EVERYTHING, I FOUND ALL THINGS”; “I AM AWAKE AND AWAKENING”. At other times she alludes to the sort of devastation that would push you to search for those kinds of answers in the first place. There are existential musings on loneliness and self-realization, zen thoughts on forgiveness and the energy of love; there is also feminism in the face of surviving a fucked up situation.

Down Is Up 02: Perfect Pussy, Age Coin, and Potty Mouth

Not for the first time this made me think of Perfect Pussy in terms of Han Shan, a briefly-existing Californian hardcore group in the early 90s who released an 8-song 7” (so about the same length, if not shorter, than Perfect Pussy’s 4-song demo cassette) of abrasive yet plaintive shouty noise. Beneath the grimy layers of obfuscating under-production, the sludgy hardcore is pierced by eerie, woodwind-like sounds and swirls of guitar distortion, while the vocals convey a barely decipherable (even with the lyric sheet) litany of depression and anger. It’s emphatically not as positive as Perfect Pussy, nor as sonically bright (and by comparison, which is no doubt odious, it really makes the current band stand out as smooth indie-friendly punk rock*) but the energy is similar.

More relevant to the above though, Han Shan took their name (plus design, and perhaps lyrical, aesthetic) from a Chinese poet who I first read about in Kerouac’s Dharma Bums.

(* Bandcamp review: “Think of Japandroids blended with Crystal Castles and Fucked Up. Yep, it’s ultimate punk band of our time.”)

perfect pussy punk hardcore han shan buddhism
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