“American Hardcore”

Sony Pictures, 2007


4 stars

More than just a documentation of a music scene, “American Hardcore” is a celebration of a time when community and commitment were more important to the music than a professional model look and “American Idol” hype.

Helmed by veteran music video director Paul Rachman, the film is based on the book, “American Hardcore: A Tribal History,” by author Steven Blush. Both Rachman and Blush are survivors of the East Coast hardcore scene, lending an eyewitness account credibility to the movie.

Roughly chronicling the years 1979-’86, the film presents a panoramic view of the American hardcore punk scene. Utilizing raw, low-tech footage from his days in Boston, Rachman shows viewers American indie underground music before it was co-opted by major record labels, repackaged and marketed as alternative.

The nihilistic attitude and DIY approach set the hardcore punks in striking contrast to the banalities of the day-glo fantasy world of MTV and the ultra-conservative vibe that permeated the country’s atmosphere during the 1980s.

The film provides sharp insight through interviews with Henry Rollins (Black Flag), Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat), Paul Hudson and Darryl Jennifer (Bad Brains), Mike Watt (the Minutemen) and Keith Morris (Circle Jerks).

Waxing nostalgic, they share tales of chaotic road trips, not-so-deluxe accommodations and shows that would, on many occasions, descend into brawls.

The unheralded Zero Boys of Indianapolis, led by vocalist/guitarist Paul Mahern, is the film’s highlight. Although their time on camera is short, it nonetheless serves as a reminder of the band’s significant and enduring role in hardcore’s legacy.

Anyone interested in a more complete picture will definitely want to check out the book by Blush.




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