Tokyo Damage Report


Remember Musical Law #1: 90% of copy-cat bands miss out on what made the original band great?

Well, here’s a related principle: Important things get lost at the changing of the guard, those times when a genre makes a great leap forward.


 If you’ve been reading my music rants, you can probably tell I’m more on the HxC side than the punker side, but I think that punk had some rad ideas that the hardcore kids missed out on.

1)      being really sloppy and out of tune on purpose
2)      antagonizing the audience (I just discovered this – a lot of early british bands would prefer to release live recordings because all the heckling was preserved on tape, thus adding to the punk-ness of the listening experience)
3)      really sick sense of humor,  sense of humor, period!
4)  political or social demands that simply made no sense or were totally impossible/ strong opinions that were deliberately contradictory, just to keep anyone from understanding the movement. (see my sex pistols rant for more about this)
5)      doing songs about whatever was in the news that week.
I think #5 is the most important: because a lot of Hardcore’s credo was “We’re immediate! We can’t contain ourselves! We are 16 and want to form a band, make a demo, and play a show all in one week! No intros! No solos! Immediate everything!” And yet they could never mess with topical subjects. 
Even if I don’t like a lot of these second-rate pub-rock-soundin’-ass punker bands of the ‘70s, I really like how they’d read about something terrible in the news – a serial killer, a rape, a burned baby, a toxic waste dump discovered next to a orphanage – and immediately say “THAT’s our new single, mates!” I tswear at one point there were  at least 4 bands all called “The hillside stranglers.” 
Why hardcore people kept punk’s distortion, speed, and simplicity but they sacrificed the topical, sick lyrics is fuckin’ beyond me. I think ROACH MOTEL might be the only band that really kept going, but they were always more Ramonesy than hardcorsey anyway.
In a way, ’70s punks were closer to modern rappers who are always makin’ mix-tapes with new verses, all trying to be the first guy to name-check a new hit movie or new scandal. The attitude was, "Fuck tomorrow, this song is for this week and then it will become obsolete."

In fairness to HxC bands, maybe they were deliberately avoiding anything the mainstream media was talking about, because even paying attention to the media was buying into its propaganda? And that’s why they seldom did topical songs? Anyone from that early-’80s era want to comment on this?

Moving on to another Changing of the Guard:
When the first wave of hardcore finished around ’84, the newer bands kept playing hardcore, but again, a lot of the crucial elements got lost or ignored:
1) 30-second songs
2) Lyrics sung so fast the singer could not articulate the words.
3) Mandatory-stop-and-go parts
4) 2-second solos
5) song arrangements that were deliberately annoying because they’d repeat one riff over and over (like the Germs’ We Must Bleed’) – or they’d repeat 2 fast  riffs over and over, essentially playing one 15 second song 8 times in a row (like the  Plasmatics’ "Squirm")
6) the idea that new music should destroy the old, the way Punkers tried to kill hippy music, and Hardcore guys tried to smash Punk.  But now all of a sudden dudes were like, "Yeah, we got to sound like back in the good old days, we got to keep these traditions alive!" And then their  friend would say, "Right on! But could we add perhaps some chugging of the low E string and perhaps get a muppet to sing the low parts?" "Certainly, my brother!"
As a result, we didn’t get a fresh new musical style, nor did we keep the best parts of thrashy HxC . . what we got instead  was (sigh) crossover and chugga-chugga sweatshirt rock. And crusty stuff which was nice but .. . .
. . . I’m not saying that most hardcore bands had all these six features. I’m saying that  ONLY hardcore bands had these six features, so it’s a shame if  the features are not considered an essential part of the style. Because where else can you go to hear  a guy recite 4 paragraphs of text in 4 seconds?  Regardless of if you like it or not, you have to  admit that a 30 second song has less in common with  pop than a 3 or 4 minute song, and a lot of so-called ’90s hardcore songs are 3 or 4 minutes. That’s math, bro!
I can see why bands would feel too restricted by the ‘formula’ of hardcore, and want more freedom. But why not keep the 30 seconds-plus-2-second-solo structure and think of more interesting ways to fill up that 30 seconds? NAKED CITY did it! Shit is not impossible, but I guess that was too hard on everyone’s brain.


On the other hand, to be honest, I never listen to Naked City. I generally listen to Westside Connection, because "Hoes treat the Bozac like Prozac."


2 comments Tags:

2 Comments so far

  1. zero October 22nd, 2009 12:48 pm

    Speaking of Naked City, how about Yamatsuka Eye?
    Boredoms? Where does that fit in your cannon?

  2. admin October 23rd, 2009 6:53 am

    @ZERO: Mr. Eye falls in the same category as Dillinger Escape Plan, John Zorn, Behold the Arctopus, Stravinsky, and Le Scrawl: They’re all totally creative and uncompromising and nuts and smash boundaries, so in theory I should listen to them every day. But in fact, I ignore them and listen to ICP. Sigh.

Leave a reply