The 1990s were an interesting time for hardcore. It was the last period of time in which hardcore was growing and evolving and where ideas and politics were more highly regarded than your record collection. I personally don’t think the decade was necessarily awesome in regards to music, but there was an undeniable spirit and push to do something that has not been around since. It was certainly more interesting than the recent—however many years of nostalgia and simulacrum—that hardcore has willingly turned into. People took a harder look at themselves and the world, figuring out ways to put their words to action and how to make hardcore a lifestyle and “more than music.” Brian Peterson wrote what is perhaps the first book to look at that decade, which may make this a touchstone in regards to any and all subsequent eventual books on that period of time.
The first half of the book gives one chapter each to the following subjects: politics and social awareness, straight edge, animal rights, and spirituality. Set up like Please Kill Me, the chapters and content are arranged with direct quotes from various participants in the scene. The author did a good job of balancing out the view points on each subject. There are those who were for what was happening, adding to and guiding the hot topics of the time. Then there were those who were completely against it. Others fell somewhere in the middle. The most interesting comments come from those looking back in hindsight at things that seemed so important at the time as having been blown out of proportion due to youth, emotions, and the rush of dogma.
Surprisingly, the one section I found most interesting, was the chapter on spirituality. Christianity and Krishna were the two main religions making their presence known at the time. The contrasting attitudes between the two were interesting. When people involved in Christian hardcore comment in the book, they don’t shy from proselytizing, and the Krishnas simply talk about why they chose the path they did. Also, while we’re on the subject, the Krishna bands were, musically, far better than the Christian bands. Listen to anything from 108, and then listen to a band like Focused. You’ll go back to the 108 record.
The bands interviewed in the second half of the book are largely skewed towards straight edge, but you also get bands like Rorschach, Crudos, and Spitboy. I’m sort of baffled by the inclusion of Avail in here. Avail hardcore? Everyone has their list of bands they’d like to see in books like this. Mine would include a band like Monster X, which were a pro-legalization straight edge grind band; Dropdead, one of the more lyrically outspoken bands of that decade; and Charles Bronson, which inspired a million insipid clone bands in the following decade.
A few of the other bands interviewed here include Groundwork, Unbroken, Trial, Earth Crisis, Deadguy, Vegan Reich, Integrity, Mouthpiece, Downcast, and many more. A few are interesting, and some have nothing of note to say, which was reflected in their music and lyrics.
At 500 pages, this book is an excellent document of the decade. The words and thoughts will totally pull you in and make you think. Well worth your time and a space on your shelf. –M.Avrg (Revelation,
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