Monday, July 16, 2007

Quick Hits - Hardcore Part 2

To remind everyone: back in February, I posted Part 1 of the hardcore music I got into after reading American Hardcore: A Tribal History by Steven Blush. You can read the rest of the preamble and excuses there, the second half of the review here. In alphabetical order:
  • Bad Brains - I Against I. Now here is an album where I can get behind the Bad Brains. "I Against I" is a great opening track, and you can hear how great these guys are musically on tracks like "She's Calling You." A very nice album all around.
    Verdict: Recommended. CD rack.

  • Black Market Baby - Coulda... Shoulda... Woulda. Remastered compilation. Another DC hardcore outfit, this band had only one proper album release. Pro: sounds like a truly "in the moment" experience, reflecting the energy of the scene and the state of music at the time. Con: sounds like a truly "in the moment" experience that I wasn't part of. So it remains stuck in the early 80's for me.
    Verdict: Not recommended. Sell-back 1.
  • Dag Nasty - Field Day. The first song ("Trouble Is") instantly alerts you that this is going to be something really special. This album doesn't really qualify as hardcore, more as heavy power pop, which is probably why it's as good as it is -- it's even bluesy at times. And it has excellent, smart lyrics too. The song "Dear Mrs. Touma," says, "might be the band's high-water mark, and one for punk in general" -- what can you say to that? I was going to criticize "Never Green Lane" for being a completely wimpy effort, but with a refrain like "I remember your mouth/You never kept it shut," I found there was more than enough vitriol to... well, to keep my mouth shut. It was almost impossible to find, but I'm really glad I did.
    Verdict: Highly recommended (if you can find it). Portable CD case.
  • Duh - Blowhard. I had high hopes for this one. The best songs are "Solo Hanneman", which lasts for 9 seconds, and "Solo King", which lasts for 5 seconds. The other 34:50 last interminably.
    Verdict: Not recommended. Pile of Death/"The Peaches File".
  • JFA - We Know You Suck. Compilation. JFA (a.k.a. "Jodie Foster's Army") put a hardcore twist onto what was known as "skatepunk." Too bad I don't skateboard. They actually have a song called "JFA" -- IMHO, you can really only only do a song with your band name in it if your band is called "Damn Yankees." The surf guitar songs resonate with me, but otherwise -- not bad, just not my cup of tea.
    Verdict: Not recommended. Sell-back 1.
  • Nomads - Showdown! (1981-1993). 2-disc Remastered Compilation. This album was very difficult to track down and thus the main reason that Part 2 took so long to come about -- and here I had always heard Swedish hardcore was easy to find. Who knew?

    The opening track, "The Way (You Touch My Hand)" I instantly recognized, although I'm not sure from where. This was 1981? Sounds like Nick Cave if he picked up the pace a bit and picked up a surf guitar sound. They're really a garage band -- most of their materials are either covers or "originals" the take bits straight from other songs -- and Disc 1 is a lot of fun and very listenable. Disc 2 is more "demos and rarities for the real fans" but still has nice nuggets throughout. In any case, this album is not really hardcore (at least my perception of the genre), but a great listen for fun, familiar sounds.
    Verdict: Recommended. Portable CD case.
  • J Church - The Horror of Life (2007). No, this band (essentially Lance Hahn and a cast of rotating characters) was not in the book. No, they did not even exist during the hardcore era. No, this is not even listed in alphabetical order. But as I listened to this album, I realized that it belonged in this list as the contemporary embodiment of the values espoused by hardcore back in the day.

    I have yo-yo'd back and forth on this review. The best songs here have the best names: tops is "If I Have to Dance Then I Don't Want Your Revolution", followed by "Vampire Girl Prefers Me Alive"(which I'd like even more if it were a bitter, rather than happy, song), and "We Play Secular Music." So it's good. However, I would pick up J Church's 2000 classic
    One Mississippi (a power pop album) or 2004's Society is a Carnivorous Flower (harder, punkier power pop) before this one. So it's not that good. However, this is better than 95% of the stuff out there. So it's better than most and definitely worth checking out, especially of you like the more frenetic stuff.

    Lance Hahn is amazing -- he's currently on dialysis (and may need a kidney transplant), yet he still is putting out albums and running his own label. (In case that isn't enough, he has been hospitalized because of an enlarged heart and high blood pressure, and has seen his business and apartment both burn to the ground in the last 5 years. Not sure where the bitterness comes from.) Go out and support him, people!

    Verdict: Recommended. Portable CD case.