American hardcore punk music, generally speaking, is only good when Republicans are in office. Let's look at the bigger bands during the Reagan/Bush years: Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, MDC, Suicidal Tendencies, Minor Threat. It seemed like every band that dared call themselves hardcore had at least a passing disdain for politics, and said so in their music. Hardcore was ugly and mean and dangerous.
Then came the Clinton years. And emo (music for and by white guys with problems.) The Promise Ring. Braid. Jimmy Eat World. The Get Up Kids--all these attractive dudes wouldn't know angry if it had a nametag. The Democrats were in office, so everybody just nodded off politically and got all self-indulgent, gutting hardcore and punk of the content that made it so vital. More songs about failed romance! More lyrics indecipherable from those of, say, Journey or Michael Bolton!
As hardcore lay dying, its body prone and being trod upon by thousands of sweater-clad, horn-rim-wearing, backpack-toting ineffectual cream puffs, something miraculous happened: Bush got elected. It was like in the WWF when one wrestler is getting the business administered unto them, but they fight back, a shaky hand rising from the mat giving the "I'm number one" sign, getting the crowd behind 'em, chanting his/her name: "HARDCORE! HARDCORE! HARDCORE!" Bam! A blow to the body, Bam! A shot to the head! Bam! A stomp to the emo!
Indeed, now hardcore is rallying in the current political climate, where everything from Roe v. Wade to the environment itself is under attack.
Enter, from Richmond, VA, weighing in (with equipment and van) at around 5000 pounds, STRIKE ANYWHERE! Anybody see them at the Eagle's Lodge on Hawthorne a few weeks back? Not only were there blistering hardcore stylings, but the between-song banter was about the sad state of affairs politically in this country and how our foreign policy makes the world hate us. There were sing-a-long choruses! There was jumping! There was dancing! (Quickly stopped by the Eagles, whom I'm guessing voted for Bush.)
STRIKE ANYWHERE play it fast and loose, as witnessed on their 2001 release, Change is a Sound, on Jade Tree. They play with fury and heart and wear their causes on their sleeve (and in their liner notes) unapologetically.
They're pro-vegetarian, pro-fair wage, anti-globalization, and the intensity of the music matches the urgency of their message.
It's nice to see resistance getting popular again in hardcore and bands like Strike Anywhere kick-starting a dialogue that's been dead asleep for close to a decade. It's sad that it takes something like Dubyah for bands like these to get the attention they deserve. But hopefully this time around, the message will take root and not be supplanted so easily when Bush loses his bid for re-election to Warren Beatty in 2004.