See more articles, reviews, fiction and poetry, including more of my writings, at group blog PLUTO'S REALM.

Friday, March 02, 2007


No, this post is not about this band, as interesting as it is. The band I guess is called Nouvelle Vague, and according to their website, is a group put together by some French guy to do these cocktail-lounge version of what they call post-punk music. You gotta love their version of "Guns of Brixton." This version of the Dead Kennedys' "Too Drunk to Fuck" was the most refreshing thing I found on You Tube yesterday, so I thought you had to see.

I guess this kind of relates to the point of the post, which is that I saw American Hardcore last night, and it's a great documentary. Brad Warner reviewed it in his blog last year, and did a damned good job of it, which he should, since this is his millieu, not mine; for those of you who haven't read even the into blurb on his site (first, shame on you), he was the bass player for ODFx, an Ohio hardcore band, long before he was a Zen web pundit. But this is not my music. My era was earlier; I loved all the pre-punk bands, especially the original punks who started the whole thing, the New York Dolls. Seeing them last year here in Nashville, even with only two original members, completed my concert-going experience. The Nashville "alt-rock' scene was fairly interesting a few years ago, with bands like Fair Verona around to demonstrate that a (then)17-year old girl like Shawna Potter can riff with anybody; although I'm admittedly out of touch now, except for Be Your Own Pet, who are not to be missed and rarely grace Nashville with their presence anymore, I don't see anything else that holds up.

Anyway. I find the music in American Hardcore barely listenable, but I gave it five stars on Netflix because the movie was so inspiring. The story of Hardcore music, the bastard stepchild born when punk died and morphed into New Wave around 1980, is the story of punk all over again; young kids with no money, no connections and only moderate (at best) musical talent, doing their own thing, with no hope of transcending their environment. Dead end at its best. It was played with no publicity in mostly illicit venues throughout the country; the film puts its run at 1980- 1986. If you're 15, you get together with a bunch of your friends, misunderstood misfits who are learning to play their instruments onstage; you pick a good name, dress in whatever rags you can scrounge, rent the Ukranina polka club for the night, trash it, and then go find another innocent landlord and do it again. Advertising is flyers and word of mouth.

Some of the best of these bands, the Dead Kennedys (who started) earlier and the Circle Jerks were around in San Francisco when I was there 1980- '83, but I never saw them. Not my scene; I was too old in my early twenties, though I built up the nerve to brave what was left of this scene and its legacy years later when I was much older. I do remember the flyers, though, and the band names. The Snap-on Tools come to mind (this was San Francisco).

The flyers are key, though; the art was sometimes great. In one of the film's most revealing scenes, Keith from the Circle Jerks shows how the band hand-made the sleeves to its EP's, thousands of them in that pre-CD era. If you wanted to start a Hardcore band, there was no momma-poppa record company, no Svengali manager or agent; you booked your own venues, paid for your own bus trips (Henry Rollins discusses a two-show road tour with the Teen Idles), and did your own thing.

The inspiration for me in a movie like this, about a music movement which produced little if anything that was (to me) listenable, comes in its subtext message: Do It Yourself. Which is not so much, do your own work, but create your own thing, even if no one else listens to your music or understands or appreciates what you do. When I was young, I wrote and drew quite a lot of really bad comic books; later I wrote some decent songs and accompanied them with some fairly poor guitar playing. Lately, all this web stuff is strictly DIY on my end.

The point, is, it's your life and you'd better do what you want to do and do it now. I fail to stick with this even now, sometimes, even as I approach 50 and should know better. I am extremely dedicated to my Zen practice, and I love anime and I really like writing these blogs and trying to teach myself to build a website; I am quite attached to my cat and to my Rufi. I am extremely glad I never married or had children; I cherish my time alone. I don't like housecleaning, no matter what Zen says. What else do you want to know?

The mistake I make is in expecting anyone else I know to share any two of my affections. Most of the Zen community consist of affluent educated people who will never understand my musical tastes or my interest in anime, manga or cyberpunk (I apologize in advance to William Gibson for using that term, but I'm trying to be terse). I intentionally took myself out of the "professional" community a long time ago; most of the people I work with watch American Idol. Yesterday there was a huge in-house sale on cheap Prada sunglasses. Do you see?

So, the message of American Hardcore for me was: Do It Yourself. Build your own life, even if no one else wants it. I probably wouldn't want yours either, but for today, mine is exactly what I need.

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