Hardcore Punk

by languageformulatingbrain

RSS Feed | Forum

I first started really exploring the genre of music known as hardcore punk by listening to some bands associated with it, principally an album by Bad Brains, four black guys from Washington DC who released an intensely low-fidelity album that alternated between the new style of hardcore punk and reggae. Although some of the early work of Bad Brains was foundational to the hardcore punk genre which became an underground political force in the late 1970s early 1980s, they also played a style of reggae on some of their tracks.

Bands like Minor Threat, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, T.S.O.L., and perhaps The Dead Kennedys represented an underground movement that opposed both the hippies and mainstream rock and roll, even as they held some of the same anti-establishment ideals as the hippies (while rejecting others). Hardcore rejected mainstream society and tried to forge its own way, and fueled by the proliferation of consumer recording equipment, independent record labels started up which released albums of the music, photocopied zines that had news about music and other writings were distributed, and violent, raucous shows were played, often in unlicensed venues.

The band Minor Threat, fronted by Ian McKaye, expressed a personal philosophy that while rebellious, abstained from the use of drugs, tobacco, and alcohol, which would be an unintentionally influential move that caused many others in the underground to form the "straight edge" movement that often violently rejected the substance abuse and promiscuity often seen in previous movements in underground culture. Other aspects would later include veganism, which the brain writing this was indirectly influenced by.

It is interesting to note that when there was a contingent of rebellious people willing to do things besides self-destruct with drugs and alcohol, they tended to pose a larger threat to the status quo. It would be many years before underground culture would be able to have larger political influence due to the Internet, but in ideas expressed in underground zines and spread through interviews and editorials, notions about society which were radically at odds with the consumer lifestyle took hold with some people.

These people really hated Ronald Reagan; the veneer of God, Mom, and Apple Pie projected by Reagan (an actor) was opposed whole-heartedly by hardcore punk bands, who wrote angry songs against the man and his Presidency, worked to mobilize people against his agenda, and present ideas (however haphazardly) that might influence people to change the future for the better--or at least destroy the present.

For many people, it was about being against society. There wasn't always a clear path to a better future, but people knew what they didn't like and lashed out at it through art and underground culture. There were definitely ideological solutions to the conundrums faced by society presented by some bands, and traditional radical political ideologies like anarchism and socialism were represented, but these were overwhelmingly to oppose a corrupt and self-destructive world and try to find some way--any way--to create a new future. Hardcore people were not content to live life as it was presented to them. They felt that they needed to create a new life, and various ideas arose as to what this new life would entail.

This would spawn an entire spider-web of new music genres often linked by loosely or strongly related ideologies, and as the Internet came into being it brought both more attention to this underground and watered it down somewhat. However, by the late 2010s, many of the ideas that were once deemed radical, such as certain strains of feminism, tolerance for LGBTQ+ people (and intolerance for bigotry against said people), as well as veganism would become parts of mainstream society.

Did the Reaganites win the 1980s? Maybe they did, but it increasingly looks like the counter-culture that was beneath the surface would eventually make great in-roads into society at large. However, even as the left-wing of the underground went farther to the left, the right-wing of the underground, with its ignorance, bigotry, nationalism, misogyny, and homophobia would make in-roads into the mainstream, culminating with the disgraceful Presidency of the 1980s symbol of nouveau-riche wealth: Donald Trump, who would attempt to become a right-wing dictator. As of this writing, while his cult is strong, the future seems to belong to those who looked toward the future, not the past.

Contact: [email protected]