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Inspired by Steven Blush's book "American Hardcore: A tribal history" Paul Rachman's feature documentary debut is a chronicle of the underground hardcore punk years from 1979 to 1986. Interviews and rare live footage from artists such as Black Flag, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, SS Decontrol and the Dead Kennedys.Written by
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An excellent overview of American hardcore 1980-1986!
Just came out of a preview screening of this fine film here at the Natfilm festival in Copenhagen, Denmark! In short, 'American Hardcore' lives up to the expectations: Made in a D.I.Y. fashion befitting its' subject, it gives you an excellent overview of the first wave of American hardcore music, nicely balancing the violence that characterized the early days with the positive message that came out of it.
You'll get to see lots and lots of never-seen-before amateur footage from (really) early hardcore shows, interwoven with many, many, many excellent interviews with key figures from the scene.
Fact is, the filmmakers have managed to dig up pretty much everybody who was a nobody back in the day: Where one could have expected a long line of New York art critics, psychologists, social anthropologists and the like yakitiyaking away about form and substance, with perhaps a single Henry Rollins getting to represent the "hardcore punk subculture" as a whole, instead what you get is a literal who's-who of early American hardcore: You've got your Gang Green and your Circle Jerks, your SS Decontrol and your Jerry's Kids, your Negative F/X and your Cro-Mags, and so on and so forth.
On a side-note, some personal favorites will inevitably be missing from any such line-up -- yours truly specially misses Choke from Slapshot, Billy Milano from S.O.D., and Paul Bearer from Sheer Terror -- but that goes with the territory.
A bigger fault, perhaps, lies in the radically negative view one gets of what happened next. Towards the end of the film you're bombarded with clip after clip of hardcore veterans telling you that after '86, it was all over. Granted, what happened next falls outside of the framework of this movie (it specifically deals only with the years 1980-1986) and to make it sound like if it all actually ended in '86 makes for good drama -- but of course in fact it just isn't true.
In '88 you had the Gorilla Biscuits, Youth Of Today, Bold, Judge, and so on and so forth, and during the 90's, well, the thing kinda went on and on, evolving or degenerating depending on how you see things. In the eyes of purists perhaps what came after '86 doesn't count -- but if so, it would have been nice to hear something said about it, to hear these guys explain what it is about, say, Integrity or Floorpunch or Catharsis or His Hero Is Gone or Good Clean Fun that makes them so decidedly un-hardcore.
But why whine about such wee little things? All in all, the film is an excellent piece of documentary about the finest underground movement in music anywhere in the world between Roky Erickson came out of the asylum in the 70's and the churches burned in Norway in the 90's!
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