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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but enjoyable
Yes, this book has its flaws. At times it can be self-righteous, opionated, and even a bit misogynistic in places--very much like hardcore itself often was. The author occasionally rises above his own prejudices, though, and provides a cogent analysis of what hardcore was, what it meant to a generation of social pariahs and misfits, and the built-in factors of...
Published on December 28, 2003 by David Stork

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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgic, but uneven.
Steven Blush, American Hardcore: A Tribal History (Feral House, 2001)

First off, in answer to some of the reviewers who were more general in their comments about the quality of the book (and, specifically, Blush's writing): this is, pure and simple, a nostalgia trip. With the exception of a few specific incidents, where the objective air comes from Blush...
Published on November 23, 2005 by Robert Beveridge


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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgic, but uneven., November 23, 2005
Steven Blush, American Hardcore: A Tribal History (Feral House, 2001)

First off, in answer to some of the reviewers who were more general in their comments about the quality of the book (and, specifically, Blush's writing): this is, pure and simple, a nostalgia trip. With the exception of a few specific incidents, where the objective air comes from Blush reporting conflicting viewpoints on certain events, this book seems to have no pretence whatsoever to objectivity. Of course it's inflammatory and opinionated. So was hardcore.

I hate to fall into the trap of "if you weren't there, you wouldn't understand," but I have to. (Actually, I took half a star off my review because that sort of thing bugs me.) It seems ot me that this book's target audience is those who were actually part of the scene (even those of us on the fringes, in towns where there were maybe twenty of us listening to a couple of local bands and the odd Black Flag album that happened to surface-- come to think of it, maybe we're especially the target audience) and want to relive those days. It never struck me, while reading, as the kind of book I could give to someone not alive during that time with the statement "if you want to understand my teenage years, read this." That's the book's major flaw, of course; somewhere along the line, someone will write an objective history of hardcore. This book is not it.

For the most part, Blush gets out of the way and simply reports snippets of interviews he conducted with hundreds of people, mostly those who were in bands, writing zines, producing records. This tendency of Blush's to try and be unobtrusive does go they way of the great auk about two-thirds of the way through the book, when Blush starts talking about smaller town scenes and relating his personal experiences in those towns; this can be justified by the fact that there simply wasn't much in those scenes to talk about otherwise. (The town where I first discovered hardcore, in fact, isn't even mentioned. Not surprising, as I never actually saw a hardcore show until I moved to Pittsburgh; my memories of the town gibe quite well with Blush's reporting, though he does neglect to mention Pgh's best hardcore band, Battered Citizens.) Because of the book's interview-centric format, things tend to be a little more disjointed than one might expect. Again, however, "disjointed" is probably the best way to approach any sort of history of hardcore; as Blush rightly states, the idea of a "unified scene" was pretty much a joke in most places.

This is a fun book. It's a minor book, but it's fun. Don't approach it as being in any way definitive, and you're likely to get a whole lot more out of it. ***
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but enjoyable, December 28, 2003
By 
David Stork (New Paltz, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Yes, this book has its flaws. At times it can be self-righteous, opionated, and even a bit misogynistic in places--very much like hardcore itself often was. The author occasionally rises above his own prejudices, though, and provides a cogent analysis of what hardcore was, what it meant to a generation of social pariahs and misfits, and the built-in factors of obsolescence that led to its demise after only a few years. The oral history is entertaining and informative--I've gotten a kick out of reading the firsthand accounts of how some of my favorite bands came to be, came to prominence, and eventually came to an end. As mentioned in another review, many of the people interviewed have an axe to grind, even after all these years. But the author makes at least a reasonable attempt at balanced reporting through most of the book.
I guess that for me, the primary appeal of this book is that it's like a trip back in time to the days when my buddies and I would listen to the latest SST or Alternative Tentacles comps after school, go to shows at our local "underground" venues and check out the record reviews in the 'zines. Before we were out of high school, we'd formed our own band and were appearing on a small stretch of the northeast HC circuit, with some modest success. My early experiences in the HC years fostered a love of creating and playing music that persists to this day. The overarching message of HC, as far as I was concerned, was this: YOU can do this yourself. YOU can make your own music and your own "scene." You don't have to sit back and wait for the big entertainment companies to spoon-feed you. Long after many other aspects of HC ceased to be relevant, this fundamental philosophy at its core continues to resonate with many kids, young and old, banging away on guitars and drums in basements and garages all over the nation.
If you were involved in HC in the early or mid '80s, whether you were playing in a band, going to shows, pasting up flyers or getting your ass beat by violent jocks because of your "weird" appearance--then you will enjoy this book. If not, you might find the "I was THERE, man!" attitude that pervades some of the text off-putting.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Finally, A Good History of Hardcore, October 1, 2005
By 
Matthew Sahlgren "Matt Sahlgren" (Kalamazoo, Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book is a wonderful bunch of quotes, stories and recollections. I spent most of high school listening to and going to see these bands "back in the day." I think it does a real good job of putting it all into perspective. Other reviewers point out that this book doesn't focus enough on the positive aspects of hardcore. Like what? Hardcore was largely about anger and...well, I can't say "disillusionment" as most listeners had prescious few illusions. They were clued into exactly what pissed them off and hardcore is probably representative of protest music in that respect. While there are notable exceptions, I think that saying hardcore had "positive" aspects is like saying Reagan did a lot for airline safety (he fired all the air-controllers for those of you who don't know...ALL of them in a union, anyway).

When I was a kid I was all about hardcore and punk and the scene and have many fond memories of it. For all it's lipservice about individuality and non-conformity, hardcore could be very male-oriented, dogmatic and uniform. Still, hardcore was one of the few subgenres that easily and often mocked itself. If you were in the scene it could be damned funny. I was disappointed that it pretty much disappeared and that younger generations didn't really continue the "I don't care if I can't sing or play well I'm gonna make loud rock and roll" idea. The few sonic elements of hardcore that are still out there have pretty much lost a lot of the humor and/or are mostly about posturing.

Please note that bands like Green Day, Sum-41, Good Charlette et al are NOT at all representative of what your average hardcore band sounded like. Those guys wouldn't ever be on the bill.

While Henry Rollins has written extensively and vividly of his days in Black Flag, it is still just his point of view of being in a hardcore band. This book is more rounded out with details of the hundreds of OTHER hardcore bands that were out there on the road and playing for $50 a show if they were lucky. I was in one of those bands and it was a gas. Sometimes I run into guys (they're always guys)that saw us or went to shows I went to. Many haven't changed a bit what with the shaved head and leather jacket with the hardcore logo and band T-shirt. Only now they're about 40 years old, dumpy, still jaded, drink to much, and single.

I especially like the fact that much of this book is organized by geographical locations. I think that any book claiming to explore the history of rock and roll ought to be organized this way, it's not just for the Blues. NOT organizing a history of music book by locale, or "scene", leads to notions and assumptions by either the reader or the writer that are just plain wrong. Geographic musical history is closer to the truth and traces the influence that various bands had on each other.

The indexes at the back of the book, as incomplete as the impossiblity of them being complete, are much appreciated.

The only thing that would top this book would be a complete collection of Flipside Magazine and Maximum Rock and Roll from 1981 to 1987....fortunately, I still have most of them.

On a side note, I cannot believe that some people still care about the so-called feud between Maximum Rock N Roll and Flipside magazines. Real or not, does it (did it) even matter? Grow up! Move on with your life or become a joke. You know, there ARE more important things to be pissed off about!
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I was there, and it wasn't like this, November 26, 2004
Revisionist history is in the eye of the beholder, but I've yet to meet anyone who agrees with Steven Blush's take on 1980's hardcore.

Blush skips over some major players in his account, short changing the importance of many bands and scenes. He makes the mistake of many who have tried to write about this subject, ignoring a bigger picture to instead focus on events that were important to him.

The best part of AMERICAN HARDCORE are the interviews, with the passage of time the participants are able to dish the dirt and take some of the more self indulgent players down a peg or two.

As gossip, this book is a fine read, but as an overview of hardcore punk rock in the '80s, this falls short, and I cringe when I see Blush quoted as an authority on the subject.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars American Hardcore: Inadequate History, Great Interviews, August 19, 2004
You should at least read part of this book. IT is no masterpiece. It's full of questionable facts and irritating interjections, and is by no means a definitive account of the early hardcore scene. But so what?

The book itself is combination of interviews and short paragraphs explaining the background of the bands mentioned. Unfortunately, as others have stated, some of the "facts" that he puts out are questionable, but that is not why one gets it. The interviews make up the vast majority of the book, and are conducted with many big names (McKaye, Barile, Cadena, Danzig for a start). These interviews make up for the authors irritating attempts at insight, and really make the book. Fortunately he gets a number of views on some topics and the interviews themselves are just fascinating. And not all of them are conducted with the stars: members of different scenes are interviewed as well. I was fairly impressed with who he managed to pick up, especially Danzig, as well as their willingness to speak on certain topics. The interviews generally flowed well with the little "histories" that he gave before them, but the style was admitadly hard to get used to at first. Still, once you get past that, and past the introduction, the book begins to become an uncovered jewel. The history is indeed inadequate, but the book is worth picking up for the faces it brings with it. I recommend getting it, or at least borrowing it from a friend, because some of the people are not to be missed.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars finally,somebody writes about the hardcore scene of the 80s., April 9, 2002
By 
Dom Lo Conte (Chicago,IL USA) - See all my reviews
After a slew of books about 70s Punk, American kids in the 80s get their due. I am one of those "ageing punks" refered to in one of the above reviews. The author gets my thanks for documenting a most forgotten and neglected part of our musical/
cultural past.Sure he left some bands out,misspelled some names-so what? The book could have been as long as WAR AND PEACE,and still stepped on someones toes.I don't totally agree with all Blush says,but he wrote it-not me. Punk,like religion is a pretty subjective,messy thing.The book is fair,in that it dosn't
indulge in hero worship,or name checking.A lot of "scenes" get covered,including ones that I never knew of,or knew little of.
Aside for a few bumps,Blush takes you on ride down to a dark place,Reagan-era America.The only thing that made being a teenager not totaly [bad] was Hardcore.This book seems to be pretty much the way it was(as I remember it).If your like me,and
you want to relive those crazy,drunken days-or if you are 2nd,3rd
waver,whatever, and want to know what you missed out on-you should pick this up.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't listen to Jem, September 24, 2005
By 
True, the author does make a few snide remarks and inserts quite a bit of opinion into the book but just because one doesn't agree with it does not make it wrong.

I really read the NYC chapter pretty carefully looking for use of the word "fascist" after reading Jem's take on the book and I could not find any example of the author using that word. Maybe I missed it, but probably not. He does refer to some people as being skinheads, but also makes the makes the distinction between skinheads and actual Neo-Nazis and so do many people quoted in the book. Ian McKaye even refers to him and his friends as being skinheads, but makes the arguement that they had beliefs that were the complete opposite of Neo-Nazis. Maximum Rock N' Roll is talked about in numourous aside from being fascist, which I don't remember him calling them.

Blush does portray some of the early hardcore scene being a way for the middle-class to blow off steam, but he also gives the lower-class and the upper-class recognition for the parts they played in hardcore. He talks about plenty of bands and uses quotes from plenty of band members who come from all social classes and there is plenty of talk about it and who came from a good background and a bad background. It is fairly comprehensive in this regard, and it is really interesting to read how hardcore was fairly accepting of any social background. There is also plenty of talk about where that steam comes from, be it from being outcasts in their communities, feeling frustrated and helpless about the political climate (Reagan, the cold war, the excess spending and vanity of the 80's) they were faced with, boredom with the sterileness and fake attitudes of the popular music of the times, being poor and feeling hopeless and being rich and hopeless, or just being completely wacked out on drugs.

I was very young during this time, way more interested in Sesame Street and completely unaware of hardcore until much later. I also listen to many different types of music, not just punk. This book, to me, was quite informative and I learned a lot about what was going on across the nation with this musical movement. For someone that was a part of the original wave of hardcore music, they might have their own opinions and views that differ from the author's. It's good to take into account that when Blush offers his opinions on bands or scenes, that is all they are and he makes sure to add a lot of factual information as well to counter any bias he had.

The only flaw is that at times it reads like a text-book, when he goes through various bands it can start to get repetitive. There are typos, but this can be the case in many books of this length and scope, particularly collections and text-books, and it is also an indie publisher so I cannot say I did not expect typos. I consider this to be a survey book on the subject of early American hardcore and it does a good job on it, no easy task for a first time author.

My only other gripe is that, while calling the Boston chapter "This is Boston, Not L.A." after a song of the same name by The Freeze, it does not mention the song or the meaning behind the song which was a commentary on how Boston bands were starting to sound like clones of each other like the bands in L.A., I believe. Again, opinion but worth noting, especially if you're going to name the chapter after that song. Good band, The Freeze.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but flawed, June 21, 2005
By 
First off, let me say that, no matter how problematic some aspects of this book may be, it's still quite an accomplishment. Blush obviously went to great lengths to capture the breadth and width of the hardcore scene, and to highlight a multitude of forgotten artists, labels, and bands.

That said, this book's strength is also its weakness. The lack of depth was frustrating, and I often wished for more analysis and criticism. Even for the half dozen or so bands that were explored in greater detail, it still felt like it wasn't enough. The chapter on Bad Brains, for example, contains a lengthy and detailed account of a feud they had with The Dicks (or maybe it was the Big Boys) over what was basically a drug deal gone bad. Though it goes on for pages, it's not even marginally interesting. Likewise, though some bands received pages of attention, other equally important bands were given a few sentences.

Much too much time was spent on scene politics, and many of the interviews were repetitive and not very enlightening (Rollins, Ian Mackaye, Jello, and Mike Watt being a few of the exceptions). The fact that Blush rejects nostalgia is commendable, but by the same token, he does not spend enough time on hardcore's impressive legacy. Hardcore, after all, was responsible for everything from "alternative" to indie to goth (while Misfits have a whole chapter, the hugely influential Christian Death is barely mentioned), and many of the great bands of the last twenty years came out of hardcore, as well as labels like SST, Touch and Go and Dischord.

Though Blush obviously wants hardcore taken seriously, it's hard to do that when it feels as though he didn't take this book seriously. With the number of spelling, grammar, and other mistakes, it was almost as if it wasn't edited at all. Also, an index would have been nice, since grouping bands strictly by geographic location makes finding them difficult. Still, even with these shortcomings, this book is an invaluable document of the hardcore scene, and of a lost subculture.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating inside look at the Genre, May 12, 2005
AMERICAN HARDCORE, for what it is, is a fascinating read, albeit as a reference book. Author Steven Blush gives us his unique inside look to a scene that helped spawned other sub-genres such as "grunge", "Alternative" and even "indie rock". The writing at times is a bit biased and downright degrading to some bands (especially when he talks about metal bands; it seems that, to Mr.Blush, virtually all metal sucked, save thrash metal bands). The books gives great detail on regional scenes and the bands that flourished there. Whole chapters are devoted to BLACK FLAG, DEAD KENNEDYS, BAD BRAINS and MISFITS, 4 key players in the hardcore scene. Although I really enjoyed the MISFITS chapters, I believe there were other, more important and transcendental bands that deserved whole chapters, like HÜSKER DÜ (their legacy on modern music can't be denied and they were there, at the dawn of the hardcore movement)and CIRCLE JERKS (they are mentioned on several occasions but they are never given the in-depth treatment). Other bands such as D.O.A., MINOR THREAT, 7 SECONDS, CRO-MAGS, AGNOSTIC FRONT and D.R.I., among others, are prominently mentioned.

After you finish reading this, you wish there was more. One thing I disliked though, was the fact that Mr.Blush frames the hardcore era squarely between 1980 and 1986. Everything before or after that is "out" of Hardcore's golden era. It would have been nice to see a chapter that mentioned the legacy of hardcore and the bands it helped spawn: PIXIES, LEMONHEADS and NIRVANA, but maybe that needs a book of its own!
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A vivid peek back into the scene, January 11, 2007
By 
Michele Hewitt (thousand oaks, CA) - See all my reviews
As one who was there in the L.A. scene, this was a fun, insightful look back in time. It was also interesting to hear points of view from many of the key people. As it has been a while, it helped solidify the memories and the evolution of how the scene came and went. I loved it. I enjoyed the photos, but would have loved to see more. It's like looking at an old yearbook or family album of sorts.
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American Hardcore: A Tribal History
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