Marxism in Hardcore Punk

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Marxism in Hardcore Punk

Hardcore punk was a short-lived subculture in the early 80’s that came as a response to the punk movement of the late 70’s. Hardcore took the music and ideologies of punk music, and pushed them to the extreme. The music was faster and heavier, the crowds were more aggressive, and the attitudes were more intense.  Hardcore was a highly influential movement that sparked genres like thrash, powerviolence, grindcore, metalcore, and many others. It’s also responsible for the presence of DIY ethics in smaller music scenes, as well as starting the straight edge subculture. Hardcore punks lived an all around violent lifestyle, and did it without the glam of the late 70’s punk fashion. The book American Hardcore, author Steven Blush, was published in 2001 and chronicled the highly influential and overlooked hardcore scene in early to mid '80s. In 2006 the book was turned into a documentary film with Blush as the writer and directed by Paul Rachman. I am also using an interview with Steven Blush done by The Miami Herald. Hardcore was a subculture within a subculture that used Marxist ideals, allowing the movement to flourish without the need for things like record labels, expensive studio recordings, and tour managers.

In order to talk about hardcore, one must first start with it’s predecessor, Punk. Punk rock was a response to the popular mainstream music of the 70’s, like disco and progressive rock. Punk took the rock n’ roll formula, stripped it down, sped it up, and took out the guitar solos.  Musically punk was not a difficult style of music to play. The same goes for hardcore. Guitar riffs usually consisted of only a few power cords, the bass parts were typically only a few notes for a whole song, and the quintessential punk drum beat is simply bass drum on 1 and 3, and snare hits on 2 and 4. The simplicity of the music made it possible for people with little to no musical talent to be in a punk band. Singers in punk bands were more shouters than singers. Anyone who could yell for long periods of time could be a punk singer. Lyrics were usually consisted of social and political commentary, with an anti-authority and anti-establishment message. Punk rock refused mainstream society with its music, message, and fashion. In this interview, Steven Blush talks about the difference between punk and hardcore, and why he was more drawn toward hardcore;

"I really loved all that stuff ('70s punk), but I didn't really relate to it too much, in that they were older and artistic, and into Warhol and Bowie, and went to art school. A lot of these bands were english and spoke of things I didn't know. So when I moved to Washington DC and got turned on to this new thing called hardcore it really spoke to me. It was kids from the suburbs, jacked on the speed and aggression of punk rock. That's where I was coming from."

There are many different styles within Punk culture but they all seem to have one common goal, to go against what's deemed acceptable by mainstream culture. Their clothing was usually torn and then covered with patches or safety pins. Biker style leather jackets were covered in metal spikes and studs, with band names painted on them. Shoes typically worn were Converse, Dr. Martins, and skater shoes. Commonly seen hairstyles were gravity defying mohawks and liberty spikes dyed in a range of different colors. Hardcore fashion can best be defined by it's lack of fashion. Unlike punk, hardcore was not about having a gimmicky, outlandish style. In American Hardcore, Holly Ramos of the New York hardcore scene touches on the attitude behind hardcore fashion in this quote,

“Hardcore defined the fashion of the time. We were Hardcore, we were severe. Cuteness had no part. I didn’t wear my boots with little frilly things. It was serious. We were fucking militant. I wore plaid skirts, real dirty ones I never washed. I’d wipe my hands on ‘em; they were green and white with bloodstains. I was...
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