February 13, 2008

American Hardcore: Not just for hardcore fans


Reviewer: Henry Leineweber
Rating (out of 5): ****

For a while, I mulled over whether to limit my recommendation of American Hardcore to just fans of the music. And decided firmly against it.

American Hardcore is a great film, and, like the genre of music it showcases, too many Americans missed it the first time around. For the unaware, Hardcore Punk (or simply Hardcore) arose out of the more familiar Sex Pistols/ Ramones school of punk rock from the late 1970s. Characterized by speed, loudness, violence, an aversion to any attempts to lump it into mainstream arena-rock, and a visceral hatred of Ronald Reagan, hardcore emerged as a true grassroots, underground force in the music scene, and has had a tremendous influence on rock music ever since.

With director Paul Rachman at the helm, American Hardcore chronicles the rise and fall of first-wave hardcore bands, including interviews with members of Black Flag, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, and many others. The music is highly regional, and each is examined with a great deal of emphasis on the infamous L.A. and Washington DC scenes, with San Francisco, the Northwest, and late-comer New York City thrown into the mix.

Ironically, it's fans of hardcore music who may be turned off by the film, as it functions primarily as an introduction to the genre. However director commentary does provide some extra insight on the interviews, and the DVD features bonus videos of performances from Bad Brains, SS Decontrol, MDC, and Jerry's Kids, which are sure to keep the most dedicated fans entertained.

The film allows a peek into the lives of an often overlooked subculture, and lets even the most timid viewer vicariously experience punching your best friend in the teeth, stage-diving into a mosh pit, or throwing bricks in a Huntington Beach riot. Good fun and good viewing for all.

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Posted by cphillips at February 13, 2008 3:02 PM