If punk took years to get its deserved kudos from the establishment -- though now enshrined as a marketable commodity, it was long shunned by shibboleths like MTV and Rolling Stone -- there's little telling how long hardcore will take to get even a fraction of the same recognition. The fact that a relatively small number of people reading this will even know the difference is just one sign of how far the long-moribund sub-genre has to go before even approaching mainstream recognition. In the meantime, Paul Rachman's encyclopedic and exhausting American Hardcore will serve as a decent chronicle of hardcore's sharp short years festering in the American underground.

Though punk was a reaction to the safe, staid, cash-register mentality of the '70s arena-sized music scene, it found itself all too quickly co-opted into the industry. Groups like the Sex Pistols disintegrated, The Clash morphed into an adventurous roots-rock, pseudo-ska outfit that started playing radio-friendly hits in arena gigs of their own, and The Ramones, well, they just stayed doing what they always did, never more or less popular than when they started. When the 1980s dawned, music seemed just as escapist as ever, only now many of the outfits were New Wave, punk's bastard offspring, retaining some of the adventurous musicality and edgy fashion sense but little if any of the antiestablishment anger. With a clenched-fist conservative like Reagan in charge, and a mainstream culture just as lobotomized as that of the previous decade, American punks realized there wasn't going to be another Clash coming around, and if they wanted more music of its raging ilk, they'd have to create it on their own. Enter hardcore.

Continue reading: American Hardcore Review