03 September 2007
Proceed to Rock; Do Not Pass Go
dir: Paul Rachman, 2006
The first fifteen minutes of this doc make you feel like you're about to watch something special. But because I find most hardcore unlistenable and incredibly repetitive, I am much more intrigued with the contextual socio-political history that surrounded its uprising--which is exactly what the first fifteen minutes of the film address.
We begin with the ushering in of the great Reagan era; an era that slowly and forcefully saw the introduction of conservatism to its highest degree ever in America. In what amounted to a complete rejection of Jimmy Carter's soft, liberal methods, we were brought Reagan's sound byte slogan, "It's Morning in America." Keith Morris from the Circle Jerks makes a bomb sound with his mouth that is meant to represent the explosion of energy and rebeillion that was hardcore. Then, seemingly overnight according to the film, the American underground rose up, fully formed from the depths of oppression and proceeded to rock!
What could have been an incredibly insightful documentary exploring the movement that was hardcore and it's reactionary/visionary focus, instead suffers from the same fate that befell this category of music: an unraveling from lack of attention span.
Hardcore, I suppose, was meant to burn out bright and leave a trail of dust and dead in its wake. But you'd never guess that from this chaotic documentary that barely pauses to develop any sense of a timeline. Viewers are bounced thoughtlessly back and forth from the east coast to the west coast and then dropped off somewhere in the mid-west (with no mention of Husker Du, either) before arriving back in Washington, D.C. for one purpose: to extol the awesomeness of Bad Brains.
Yes, Bad Brains is awesome. Yes, they were a truly original hardcore band. Yes, they were four black guys. And in the meantime probably a thousand other bands had the seed of hardcore in their ears after hearing "Pay to Cum." That still doesn't merit a full fifteen minutes of coverage in a 90 minute doc. The bands that do get focus before and after Bad Brains are lukewarm and mid-level players at best (Cro-Mags? The Necros? come on...).
What thrilled me most about the film was the notion that hardcore imploded in on itself through physical violence done to each other, not outwardly focused on the true origins of their rebellion. Ian Mackye retells an interesting story about when he knew hardcore had died. And it really only last about four years--up until Reagan's re-election.
Guess the fury of music can't really change the tides of the political process. So, how come no one's made a doc that focuses on that aspect of hardcore?