The 2001 publication of American Hardcore: A Tribal History was a welcome event for aged former punks like myself. Prior to its appearance, the prospect of an in-depth analysis of the hardcore (HC) punk world seemed remote at best. HC was a culture that existed well below the radar of most of Americans. If the average Joe knew anything about the scene at all, it was likely the “punk rock riot” stories the press breathlessly reported.
The significance, and ongoing influence of HC on the culture at large, had never been articulated as well as it was in American Hardcore. Author Steven Blush’s experiences as a HC promoter in Washington D.C. (or HarDCore) proved invaluable to the writing. Not only did Blush witness key events first-hand, he met practically everyone who was involved in the scene. American Hardcore was recognized as the definitive word on HC, and it seemed likely to hold that position for some time to come.
With the just-published second edition of American Hardcore, Blush has delivered a book that is superior to the first in nearly every way. All of the chapters have been updated, and a new one titled “Destroy Babylon” has been added. Blush conducted over twenty-five fresh interviews, has included loads of previously unseen artwork, drafted two hundred band bios, and dramatically increased the discography section. The bottom line? The original 328 pages have grown to 408, and most of the text has been substantially rewritten.
For those who like to argue, Blush offers plenty of opportunities. Not in the facts department; the man clearly knows his stuff when it comes to basics like band names, members, and gigs. But when it comes time for a critical appraisal of the music, he loses it. Like assholes, everybody has an opinion. A great many of Blush’s seem to come straight out of the Politically Correct Punk Rock Bible. I would wager that every reader will find something they disagree with in here. What’s more, I have a sneaking suspicion that is exactly what the author’s intentions were.
Still, I had to wonder sometimes if Blush liked any of the bands at all. For starters, everyone who “went metal” in the mid-eighties are dismissed as sellouts, and will forever suck. Groups who signed with major labels, like Husker Du and The Replacements, are obviously worthless. And in regards to the few remaining bands who pass muster, most were never worth a damn in the first place it seems.
This crotchety old punk rocker is like that geezer Andy Rooney with a Mohawk. With the glory days of HC becoming an ever distant memory, maybe 60 Minutes will do a feature. If so, the second edition of American Hardcore is the only reference they would need. It is the definitive word on HC, and should remain so for quite a while. Or at least until Blush decides to do another update.