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4The Daily Tar Hed Thursday, September 24, 1987
D.C. 'hardcore' craze stays alive by playing by the rules
By RANDY BULLOCK
Special to the DTH
Hardcore is by now a worldwide
force. It has changed alternative
music forever and is going the way
of any musical "movement" by
mutating into subgenres and. by the
law of averages, has an outside chance
of mutating into something accep
table by the masses.
It may be just a matter of time
before Dick Clark begins introducing
the latest hardcore sleaze to a crowd
of glassy-eyed nubiles eager to writhe
their barely clad bodies for the smiling
TV eye. So. before this happens, it
is necessary to strike a blow for
artistic integrity and guide the
wayward listener to a wonderful land
where quality comes before capital
ism and a sense of purpose is main
tained. This is speaking of music only,
of course, for the place in question
is Washington. D.C.
The pocket of musicians there
continue in the traditional hardcore
mode, ignoring both Satan and
skateboards, and churning out gener
ally high quality music with a positive
message. Under the influential
umbrella of Spiritual Grandfather Ian
MacKaye (ex-Minor Threat), these
musicians seem inclined to follow a
few basic guidelines.
1. In order not to confuse music
with a fashion statement, hair should
be cut "normally" (i.e. without spikes
or mohawks) or, for easy mainte
nance, cut off entirely.
2. Any cover versions of songs on
vinyl must be either "Stepping
Stone" by the Monkees or an old Wire
3. Only one album per band, and
then the band must either break up
to mate with other bands, completely
shuffle its line-up, or change its name.
This last rule keeps the scene in a
constant state of flux, keeps everyone
from making any real money, and
creates a steady flow of posthumous
vinyl that rivals Elvis and Hendrix
repackages in number.
Whether these rules are the cause
or not. the fact remains that
Washington all but started hardcore
in its present form, and is one of the
major scenes consistently turning out
relevant music in any great amount.
Dag Nasty, a relative oldster as far
as band longevity goes, recently
broke rule number three by releasing
a second album without breaking up
for good. We'll let them slide because
they HAVE broken up once, replaced
their old bassist, and changed singers
three times at least.
Their first album was uniformly
excellent and marked them as the
band most likely to pick up where
Minor Threat left off. This is not only
because both bands share guitarist
Brian Baker, but because they both
favor a lot of jerky tempo changes
and spokenscreamed lyrics dealing
with self-awareness and relationships
gone wrong. On the second album,
they partially break from the stand-
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Descendents-style pop sound and one
acoustic ballad which is not that bad.
although it does prove that hardcore
singers sound a bit better behind
snarling guitars. Dag Nasty still puts
on entertaining, energetic shows and
should be playing near here soon.
Soulside, after line-up changes and
a name change (from Lunchmeat),
have released their first album.
Becoming less to Be Nothing, and it
is likely to become the best vinyl to
come out of the scene this year. There
is the obligatory Wire cover, a varied
but nearly always pulverizing guitar
attack, and good chant-oriented
lyrics. Soulside are also excellent live.
Other bands you will not see live
any more because they follow rule
number three to the letter are
Beefeater, Rites of Spring and Gray
Matter. Beefeater were crusaders for
human rights and perhaps the last
bastion of honest, humanistic polit
ical thought in the music scene. They
released an album two years ago and
flicker out now with an EP and an
LP. Need a Job is the very cohesive
EP that carries on their banners of
social awareness to a jazz-punk-funk
hybrid beat with songs about apar
theid, unemployment and working
for the government. Their alburn.
House Burning Down, is a slightly
more playful affair with individual
compositions by each band member
and more experimentation with
"found" vocals, etc. and a guest
vocalist spot by Alec MacKaye of
.Faith. Both are quite worthwhile.
Rites of Spring and Gray Matter
were both scene staples for a while
and both go out with an EP. Gray
Matter's is tighter than their album
and displays a more mature approach
to the basic thrash formula they
embraced. Good, solid fare.
Rites of Spring, after releasing one
of the most disturbing albums of all
time, tone down their sonic assault
a bit for an equally pleasing EP.
They've retained their dense, brood
ing melodic style. Their lyrics are still
ridden with angst and sung by Guy
Piccioto. the most tortured vocalist
to bring out the beaty in despair. If
Dostoevski wielded a strat, he would
sound like this.
A note to the already tormentea:
Rites of Spring has reformed as Happy
Go Licky with all new songs wherein
they clothe their excruciating agony
in a slightly less heavy, neo-psychedlic
There you have it. Support your
local music scene.
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