Tag Archives: Hardcore

Album of the Day: So Stressed, “Please Let Me Know”

One of the larger tensions that exists between artists and critics is the latter’s insistence on taking the work of the former to be strict autobiography, but the pain that courses through the third album from Sacramento’s So Stressed feels too immediate and too visceral to be a work of fiction. Its 10 songs seem to document a grueling breakup, but what makes the record so rattling is that all of the resulting agony is focused inward. Where 2015’s The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art was stacked with bruising hardcore, Please Let Me Know is both paradoxically more measured and more tortured. Opener “Fur Sale” sails out on a sleek sheet of melodic guitars, and frontman Morgan Fox isn’t screaming but singing. But about two minutes in, the turbulence hits: “Nothing compares to you,” Fox sings, “But I still compare everything to you.” From there it’s a quick dive into dissonance; the guitars turn pitch black and Morgan doubles over howling.

The rest of the record volleys between those two poles, post-hardcore melodicism trading off with proper-hardcore panic attacks. “Majestic Face” manages both at once, eerie vocal harmonies gliding across heart-attack double-bass drumming. In “Old Hiss,” Fox runs into his old flame in public, which sends him into a spiral of despair: “We’ll grow old together,” he wails as the band pitches and rolls behind him, “Right up until I wake up.” Even when the band stretches out musically, the results are shot through with unease. The sparse “Peach,” is built on a skeletal strum and lit up with squiggles of synthesizer that sound like an MRI machine melting down. And while the band’s ventures into melodicism demonstrate impressive breadth, it’s the full-throated ragers that land the hardest. The panicked “Subsequent Rips” opens with Fox declaring “I write myself a heartfelt love letter/ and read it into the mirror,” against chaotic corkscrews of guitar; both elements are operating in their own time signature: Fox plows forward regardless of meter; the band hammers away chaotically, like they’re falling down a flight of stairs. Please Let Me Know trepans down into the center of heartbreak and records all of the mayhem it finds there. It may not be autobiography, but that doesn’t make it feel any less real.

J. Edward Keyes

DC’s Darkest Hour on Their City’s Political Climate and Hockey

Darkest Hour

After more than 20 years, DC hardcore outfit Darkest Hour have done something more and more bands find themselves doing: they’ve left the classic record label dynamic and crowdfunded their new release, Godless Prophets & the Migrant Flora. It’s allowed them to connect directly with their fans, and also made more room for family time. They’re now in control of their own destiny, and taking full advantage of it. Ahead of their release, we got the chance to chat with the group’s co-founder, Mike Schleibaum, about crowdfunding, the political climate in DC and, of course, hockey.

First of all, you’re from the DC area and you’ve been living there for a while. So, given the recent political changes and climate, what is it like in DC right now? 

It’s definitely an ‘interesting’ time. Trump is here and he’s certainly way different from even George W. Bush. He’s actually around town, and there’s always a gaggle of people around him screaming. When Obama was here, it felt like things were kind of normal. But now, it’s a city of lefties, so we are all pretty up in arms.  For the next four years it’s going to be an epicenter for people to have their voices heard. That’s why it wasn’t made an independent a state, so people will come here to have their voice heard. I guess, all this traffic will bring a bunch of money to the area. People are certainly on edge. So I’m interested to hit the road and hear people elsewhere let me know how they feel. Here, it’s kind of a given that everybody feels the same way—like over 90% of the residents are Democrats.

The riots and the craziness that happened here weren’t really televised nationally. The rioting was like what would have happened after a trial—it was very directed against the government. There was an incident where someone climbed the scaffolding outside the White House and hung a “Resist” flag. That shit was not happening a couple months ago. Everybody was just hoping there weren’t going to be any more terrorist attacks or mass shootings. Now, no one has time to think like that. Maybe we just haven’t heard about it. There have been some terrorist activities with bombings and marines killed in some raids.

I guess, it’s an important time for art in a sense. What is ‘great’ and what is ‘art’ will always be argued. So let’s just hope we don’t blow up the planet.

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The Shape of Punk That Was: Dave Hofer’s DuPage County Hardcore Archives

Oroku Saki

In the mid-to-late ’90s, while Chicago was the musical center of attention, suburban scum dogs were also raising a racket in a variety of venues outside the city. Within the “Chicagoland sprawl,” these “venues” were things like storage spaces, unfinished basements, vacated houses, sports complexes, and small record stores. They were micro-scenes bustling with life, and DuPage County, in particular, was producing bands at an alarming rate. There was straight edge hardcore (Last In Line, Strength in Numbers), unhinged powerviolence (Landmine, Kungfu Rick) and a veritable smorgasbord of different types of metal.

The fertile ground of the ’97-’98 era also sowed the seeds for future, more prominent musical acts. “1997 and ’98 was the ‘first wave’ of bands that eventually led to bands like Weekend Nachos, Spitalfield, and Rise Against,” says Dave Hofer, more commonly known to friends as “Hoffa,” who drummed in many of these bands and was a ubiquitous figure in the suburban DuPage scene. “Looking back, it was nowhere near the ‘first wave’ of suburban punk bands, because there was quite an active suburban scene before us, but there was zero [social] connection outside of the records.”

Hofer goes on: “We were from the same area as bands like Ivy League, Gauge and Silence [members of which later went on to form the lauded Chicago hardcore band MK-Ultra], but those bands were all five or more years older, so it’s not like our scene was born from theirs or anything. You can see a much more direct connection between bands who were active in the late ’90s and the present day than you can bands from the early to mid ’90s and today, probably because of the Internet.”

This was not the cultivated, po-faced, poised, working-class punk and hardcore Chicago was known for, but rather a sort of Gremlins-esque blossoming of a group of wise-ass kids prone to heckling everyone (in a good-natured manner) at shows, forming bands based on the Jerry Springer Show (aptly and creatively named “Springer”), and writing death metal tributes to their high school band conductors (Gravemasters’ “Gary”). Chicago acted as a hub to see touring bands, but for those living and creating in the suburbs, there wasn’t an aspiration to be a “Chicago HC band”™.

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Attack The Music Brings Japanese Sounds to an International Audience 

Attack The Music

Video games have served as an entry point into Japanese music for many, especially those growing up in the 1990s in North America. Where conventional efforts to break Japanese artists usually fell flat, songs included as part of console releases or arcade machines often piqued the interest of younger players. Eddie Lehecka, who co-founded American music label Attack The Music with friends Matt Mirkovich and Corey Prasek, was one such person.

“The one that started my spiral was PaRappa The Rapper,” the Cleveland-born Lehecka says, speaking to us from a Mister Donut store in Tokyo on a late-December trip to Japan. “When it came out, that kind of opened the door to rhythm games. Then, [rhythm games] blew up in the States when Dance Dance Revolution came out. That’s when I started paying attention to Japanese music, thanks to all the songs being licensed to these games.”

Lehecka met Prasek when both of them were scrambling to secure the domain name “bemanistyle.com” (named after video game maker Konami’s music game division) in 2000. “Eddie registered it no more than 30 minutes prior to me trying to register it,” Prasek recalls (Lehecka thinks it was more “like… two minutes”). Briefly defeated, Prasek launched his own rhythm-game site, iidxstyle.net, before eventually joining forces with Lehecka. Their site Bemanistyle covers news related to rhythm games, and Lehecka says that in 2006, at the height of their popularity, they had 300,000 registered users.

Prasek knew Mirkovich from their native Californian dance game scene, and soon brought him into the fold. The three juggled various jobs: Mirkovich was in the gaming industry (eventually helping to port Rock Band, another famous rhythm game, to Playstation and Wii) and Prasek worked as a manager at an AT&T store.

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Amygdala: A Tradition of Punk Anti-Colonial Resistance

Amygdala

The results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Trump’s ensuing cabinet choices have brought the U.S. into line with a worrying global Western move toward the far right (see: Greece, the U.K., France). For marginalized people in the Americas both in and out of the DIY punk scene, all this means is that the curtain’s been ripped back, the chaos exposed—the colonial legacies and the long histories of resistance.

There will surely still be some cliched and irritating calls for punk to “get good again, like it was during Reagan”—as if important punk resistance suddenly stopped in 1992 with a Democratic president. (Anyone who’s been paying attention would beg to differ.) Five-piece San Antonio political punk cabal Amygdala position themselves as part of this ongoing tradition; they started making ferocious, caustic and outspoken hardcore together in 2014, and their 2016 effort, Population Control, certainly pulls no punches. “Semillas,” their latest track, was recorded live in October of 2016 on their recent tour, and features audio of a ceremonial prayer performed by indigenous Guatemalans at a benefit for Standing Rock that Amygdala also played, a powerful statement of pan-indigenous solidarity.

We spoke to Bianca (vocals) and Yole (bass) from Amygdala about the rise in visibility for queer punks and punks of color, how the punk scene at large can become more inclusive, and why punk is so useful still as a sound of resistance.

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