New York Hard Core
N.Y.H.C. New York Hard Core By Mike White. I remember wasting hours of my teen years in my parents' basement watching Urgh! A Music War, Another State of Mind, and The Decline of Western Civilization (Part One)-the triumvirate of Punk Rock documentaries...
I remember wasting hours of my teen years in my parents' basement watching Urgh! A Music War, Another State of Mind, and The Decline of Western Civilization (Part One)-the triumvirate of Punk Rock documentaries. Yet, even then I realized just how ridiculous some of the folks in the "punk scene" could be. There was the vacuous skater dude in ASOM who'd change his hair color at the drop of a hat or the overly-serious pre-pubescent kid in DOWC who induced laughter from my friends and me whenever he was on screen.
Following well in the footsteps of The Decline of Western Civilization is Frank Pavich's N.Y.H.C., a look at the "hard core" scene in New York in the late nineties. The first question that the film tries to tackle is the definition of "hardcore." Is it a type of music? A lifestyle? Neither or both? I've always thought of "punk" as both music and a lifestyle (albeit a way of living that need not be ascribed to in order to enjoy the music!). Meanwhile, judging from the incredibly diverse group of people involved in hard core and their divergent viewpoints, I'd have to say that hard core is more about power chords than politics; more about piercings (and tattoos!) than perceptions.
N.Y.H.C. is rife with embarrassing interviews with the mush-mouthed lead singers of several hardcore groups. While these guys appear to think that they're spouting poetry and liberating the minds of the faithful, all I can hear as an "out of touch old dude" is a lot of good music competing with badly done vocals. In order to give a sense of "community," the singers in a lot of these hard core bands often turn over their microphones to fans in the front row and let them croon a bar or two. Ironically, I found all of the fans to be much more competent and comprehensible singers than the guttural fulminations of the "real singers." Luckily, as with Another State of Mind, the songs are often presented with subtitles in order to allow the clueless a bit of lyrical insight.
Hardcore rose out of the ashes of some of the bands in the aforementioned films; Black Flag, The Misfits, Minor Threat, et al. It traveled along the same musical route as groups like The Exploited and G.B.H. and crossed paths with offshoots of heavy/death/speed metal such as Morbid Angel and Scepultura. The end result sounds very much like old punk with heavier guitars and barking vocals.
There have been a few bands like Agnostic Front and the Cro-Mags who have weathered the years and made the slight move from punk to hardcore successfully, though not without a struggle. Hardcore is not to be confused with "straight edge," which is more of a lifestyle than a musical genre. As testified by a member of the Cro-Mags, drug use among hardcore fans and groups is widespread.
Pavich's documentary is well made in that it's technically competent and the subject matter is inherently interesting as it presents a subculture that is not highly visible or recognized. However, it's the subjects themselves-the bands-that are tiresome; their music and their boisterous swaggering. The film is as claustrophobic as a mosh pit. Perhaps this is intentional in order to demonstrate the hardcore scene as being tightly-knit. Instead, everything seems to run together and the film becomes as sensually assaulting as the one-note music played during countless concert sequence.
At a little under an hour and a half, N.Y.H.C. seems to go on forever-even when viewed while fast forwarding.
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