May 27, 2011

Hardcore USA, circa the early/mid-’80s: Pitifully few legitimate places to play, no big money backing and big budget recording sessions for million-selling albums or tours, no internet making all the information on a band one could want—plus recordings—literally at one’s fingertips, and it seemed like pretty much everyone outside of your small pack of punker pals were out to kill asshole freaks like you. The concept of punk-as-career-move wasn’t even enough of a blip on the radar to be considered a joke, and those who aligned themselves with “the scene” and picked up an instrument to bash on or went to a rented hall/backyard/basement show often did so because they believed in something that had a value that transcended the usual lure of fame and fortune. What resulted was some amazing (and yes, some admittedly pretty crappy), surprisingly diverse music coming from different clusters of groups in places not identified by the mainstream as hotbeds of musical culture—Tempe and Phoenix, Dallas and Austin, Las Vegas, Seattle, Portland, Washington, DC, Lawrence and elsewhere. Some of these clusters of bands stuck out in the middle of nowhere pooled together and managed their statement of existence via what was then a critical musical avenue for the average punk band, the compilation album. Some, like Flex Your Head, Boston Not L.A., Get Off My Back, Master Tapes and Cottage Cheese from the Lips of Death, featured what would end up the only recordings by bands that may have ruled the roost at home, but likely would be known to only a select few just fifty miles away. The New Hope was Northeast Ohio’s definitive statement circa-1982/’83, a thirty-song collection featuring a number of the area’s hardcore elite—The Guns, Positive Violence, Spike In Vain, Agitated, No Parole, The Dark, Zero Defex, Outerwear, Offbeats, PPG and Starvation Army—offering up their individual takes on “hardcore,” ranging from the brooding virulence of The Gun’s “I’m Not Right,” to the hyper-speed thrashing of Positive Violence and Zero Defex, to more addled approaches from Spike In Vain and The Dark. Nearly thirty years down the line, virtually everything here stands up well, with the hard work and dedication put into the project still shining through. A one-sheet included here presents shrunken images of the pages of the comp’s original booklet, along with some liner notes helping to give context and insight into just how much effort was put into putting this out the first time ‘round, and Smog Veil has upped the ante by including an additional LP’s worth of material from each band. Things have definitely gotten a wee bit easier in Hardcore USA circa-2011 in terms of recording, releasing, performing and networking, but reissues like this are still invaluable, not only because the music on ‘em is so kick ass, but also because they serve as evidence that those needing to get their point across will inevitably find a way to do just that.

 –jimmy (Smog Veil)