Category Archives: Editorial

When Hardcore Dance Becomes Hardcore Jerk

Speaking of The Funeral Portrait, it looks like vocalist Lee Jennings is a little worse for wear today after having been punched out at a show by a hardcore dancer last night. Continue reading When Hardcore Dance Becomes Hardcore Jerk

DIY: Dead or Materialized

DIY

If you want something done right, do it yourself; unless, of course,  you can’t afford it.

The majority of hardcore and punk was founded on a DIY ethos, something that HXC has taken to heart and pursued itself.  However, in a world filled with YouTube stars and not-so-independent indie labels, it’s kind of hard to remain loyally underground when you can Google a band’s Facebook page and follow them on Twitter.  Everyone has an agenda, everyone has a way to be heard.  That’s why people make music. That’s why people write.  That’s why we put it on the internet, so people will find it.  The most DIY thing you can do nowadays would ironically be to keep everything you do to yourself because otherwise you’re helping fund major industry ploys like various social media outlets as the internet continues its shameless take over.

Let’s look at DIY as the mindset of finding funding, promotions, gigs and profits all on your own in an attempt to 1.) avoid the corruption of your art by industry heads or 2.) because you simply don’t have the proper financial backing to pay for the industry established services you need.  In the end, DIY keeps things local and directly in and of the scene they spawn from.

“My name’s Blurryface and I care what you think.”

This line is sung by Tyler Joseph of twenty one pilots on their latest single “Stressed Out.”  While twenty one pilots is far from hardcore, from punk, and from being a band I’d ever admit to listening to regularly, this song has some serious significance in the modern music scene and beyond.

Beginning with the tell-tale tragedy of being incapable of making something original in modern music because every chord progression, lyrical concept, rhyme, and reason has been exhausted time and time again, Joseph extends his song’s meaning to life in general.  We all begin as innocent, imaginative kids chasing our dreams only to get suffocated by the millennial dilemma of needing to make money just to survive.  Can you really compromise your art for cash? Do you have to? The idea of “originality” is now determined simply by who can do what’s been done before better because we are no longer in an age of “do it yourself” but of “do it better.”  And in the end, once we all get wrapped up in that school of thought, are we even the artists we started out as to begin with? “My name’s Blurryface and I care what you think.”

Perhaps “do it better,” or DIB, really is the future of music. DIY is now just a part of the major production of it all. We have seen multiple times how a DIY aesthetic can make or break a movement, early punk and hardcore being the most prominent flag ship examples.  However, there are numerous other music realms that have greatly benefitted from the DIY momentum.  EDM, dubstep, house, and basically the entirety of contemporary electronica is rooted in self-serving, SoundCloud blaring, warehouse playing DIY promotions.  Who needs a label and a studio when you have a laptop, social media and a solid wifi connection? The same can be said of the major indie revival that has been taking over the airwaves these last five years.  Many cool cats and Brooklynites have been able to get their sound out simply through connections and home studios, thus growing into their own, as we saw with Bon Iver and Grizzly Bear, among many, many others.

And of course, in the hardcore, metalcore and punk scenes of today, DIY is blazing through at rapid rates.   Beartooth and Vanna are playing house shows.  Terror is refusing to use a producer on their latest album, The 25th Hour. FrnkIero andthe Cellebration‘s debut record, Stomachaches, was recorded in a basement in full before a label ever saw it. The Ongoing Concept are hand making all of their instruments for their upcoming record aptly titled Handmade.

So is this the future of the music industry? Finding ways to bypass the enormous fees people lose from having to pay venues to play or sell merch?  Finding ways to bypass the ridiculous costs of working in a studio?  Finding ways to bypass the very nature of affording instruments (why not make ’em yourself)?  Perhaps.  And truly, I find this to be a rather endearing sentiment.  But, naturally, there’s a catch. Major labels are picking up EDM artists.  Grizzly Bear will remain decidedly broke if they simply bank off of their own touring and record sales for income. Vanna is playing house shows between dates of large venue tours. FrnkIero andthe Cellebration have the clout created by Frank Iero’s time in My Chemical Romance to get them noticed more. And in the end, these great sentiments and artistic routes are merely artists finding ways to do things better than the ways of the set systems, better in favor of the artist, not the labels or iTunes or Spotify, etc.  Unfortunately, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other promotional platforms are benefiting and–in the vein of Facebook–profiting off of these promotions seemingly done on the artists’ own.

“When I grow up I’m going to be an artist and not a cover girl.”

–“Cover Girl” by The Ongoing Concept

“Out of student loans and tree house homes we all would take the latter.”

–“Stressed Out” by twenty one pilots

The major problem with going DIY in today’s world is expressed perfectly in these paralleled lyrics.  The mentality and sentiment to be a true artist is stronger than ever, but so are financial pressures. Living in NYC, one of the major cultural hubs of the world is hella expensive.  For $1,500 a month you can find yourself in an apartment the size of a closet with a job that allots only $30,000 a year before taxes.  That math doesn’t quite add up.  Student loans are increasingly sought after leaving art kids who have spent their whole lives being told to go to college in immense debt with nothing but low income, entry level jobs to look forward to in order to offset it. These financial realities are forcing the movements of various musical scenes out of major modern cultural hubs because no one can afford to actually be located in these places like they were back in 1979.  The Bowery is now a hip and almost bourgeois section of Manhattan, no longer the artist slums of the city. Brooklyn is the most expensive neighborhood in America. To be DIY nowadays, you  have to have a trust fund or those crappy minimum wage gigs in which you can actually fund all of the stuff your labelless music can’t and pay for people to see your band’s Facebook posts. You really have to suffer for your art or move somewhere cheaper yet less opportune.

Jay-Z’s catastrophic self-supporting streaming service, Tidal, is simply the latest example of a DIY facade in the industry.  Instead of marketing Tidal to the artists who desperately needed that kind of self-serving support and funding, however, it immediately became an elitist platform.  Madonna, Jack White and Beyonce were all names included on the promotional roster, however, bands like Vanna, The Ongoing Concept and FrnkIero andthe Cellebration were not.  In fact, it would make more sense to see Gerard Way’s solo project appear on this streaming service’s campaign rather than Frank Iero’s simply because Way is backed by a bigger label and therefore is a bigger name in the modern media’s eye. (Staple Records vs. Warner Bros. Records; Warner Bros. will always win.)  By carving out a niche hole, the entire notion that musicians can survive off of their work is still being dominated by the “giants” in the industry who feel they have some semblance of a say on who should and should not be promoted.  Jay-Z is helping to create a hierarchy that will rule out any artist in need of a more profitable outlet than Spotify or Pandora.

So where do we go from here? Yes, in many instances, bands like twenty one pilots can be hated for their quick ascension and immediate backing by “scene-driven” powerhouses like Alternative Press and Fueled by Ramen, but at the same time, we are still watching people like Pete Wentz extend the grappling hook to struggling artists to make it big, to bring them up to a mainstream level instead of reaching out to names already on par with the pop culture greats of today, unlike Jay-Z’s actions.  Without Wentz, the world wouldn’t have Panic! At The Disco the way they are known.  There potentially wouldn’t be a surge in pop punk or as significant an emo revival.  While this is still in a sense “selling out,” it is the lesser of two evils.

“Wake up you need to make money.”

–“Stressed Out” by twenty one pilots

“Don’t be the print of someone else’s painting.”

–“Cover Girl” by The Ongoing Concept

Is there a way to stay original and make money without selling out? Can you truly do it on your own in today’s world? While twenty one pilots may have been picked up by Fueled By Ramen, at least they were not completely overtaken by FBR’s parent label Atlantic Records.  There still is a sense of obscurity around them, obscurity, however, in a way that is still boosting them to the tops of festival line-ups and tour bills.  The Ongoing Concept, however, will go down in a history recorded by low budget bloggers and retrospective hardcore fanatics for making all of their instruments by hand, yet chances are they will not make it to radio play or ever grace magazine covers.

But then again, maybe there is hope.  Kory Grow and Grayson Haver Currin over at Rolling Stone seem to like Beartooth and Marmozets, respectively, enough to have given them print coverage–even if it was in the form of a blurb.  So where is the line drawn for acceptably selling out?  Fall Out Boy was right when they said, “This ain’t a scene/It’s a goddamn arms race.”  It all depends on what bands find the right weapons and how/if they choose to use them to get places.  Until then, I’ll stay happy in my DIY realm with a bartending gig to fund my writing.  The Ongoing Concept will continue to shine in their niche scene with their skills in both instrumentals and woodshop.  FrnkIero andthe Cellebration will still have way more communal gigs in dingy basements than Gerard Way could ever hope to accomplish playing his large venue shows.  twenty one pilots can continue to ride their wave and Jay-Z can make attempts to support his elite and shut himself off from the rest of the industry all together.

So I ask you, where did the DIY party truly go? I think I would like to be a member of that secret Facebook group.

Bare Meaning: The Role of Women in Music Culture

Photo taken from Pinterest
Photo taken from Pinterest

There has been increasing talk of the lack of women in the hardcore scene lately. Yet for all the talk, there doesn’t seem to be adequate exploration of why this is so or of what’s truly going on here. Relative to other rock genres like metal and alternative, hardcore seems to be the most homogenous and male-dominated of all. The reasons for this phenomenon may be far and wide, but I’d like to point to one particular issue that I’ve noticed in my years of listening to post-hardcore–the lyrics.

YouTuber Jared Dines hilariously sums it up in one of his satirical videos of the scene, “10 Styles of Metal.” A few seconds into the video, when the genre title “POST HARDCORE” holds above his head, Dines elucidates in unclean vocals: “My girlfriend broke up with me/ I’m really upset about it/ It’s really my own fault/ But I’m gonna blame her.” While saying that all post-hardcore bands sport the same lyrical content is an overgeneralization, any fan can laugh at how common and, for the most part, accurate Dines’ criticism actually is. Women tend to be given a certain symbolic status of vixen or betrayer or, like in a recent Ice Nine Kills music video, succubus.

Personally, I love the music metalcore band Ice Nine Kills make, but I’ve got to admit that the video for “The Fastest Way To A Girl’s Heart Is Through Her Ribcage” is troubling. It’s become so commonplace now that we no longer realize it, or if we do, we let it pass by us as mere fact–the idea that woman is the downfall of man. In this particular case, a (sexually) voracious female demon that we watch vocalist Spencer Charnas brutally kill is the subject matter. Coupled with lyrics like “You’d be just as sexy bleeding,” this visual takes the trope to a more obvious extreme. While some of you out there may argue “it’s just a music video” or “you’re taking this too seriously,” I’d like to suggest that sometimes the effects outweigh the intent. Do most guys approach their actions or the art they make with the explicit idea that they’re going to villainize women? I’d like to guess not. But the unconscious ideas are there and they keep getting nonchalantly perpetuated, and in this instance, as an INK fan, become alienating to me.

From_Death_to_Destiny

Perhaps the very icon for this kind of behavior is British powerhouse Asking Alexandria; or, to get right down to it, ex-frontman Danny Worsnop. The cover art for the band’s latest album From Death To Destiny is a prime example of the female figure being reduced to a purely sexual and symbolic role for the male frontman. In the image (above), the woman is placed naked in a vending machine at the male rock star’s disposal should he have a few bucks on him to spare. She is a resource of pleasure for him, an object. In short, she is dehumanized. Take virtually any strand of lyrics from Asking Alexandria over the years and you’ll find something similar. Again, AA is a band I’ve enjoyed listening to musically for a while, but lyrically it’s hard to escape “I knew when I first saw you/You’d fuck like a whore” (“Not The American Average“).

On the more pop-oriented side of the post-hardcore spectrum, Falling In Reverse‘s music video for “Good Girls Bad Guys” gives us yet another example. In the video, a car pulls up and lets attractive women out of the trunk, parading them around on a kind of catwalk for the men on the set. Their only value in the space of the video is as beautiful objects; commodities that give the men their successful, masculine status. These women are only here for the purpose of reflecting the male ego back on itself in a positive light.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 1.28.45 PM

This editorial isn’t here to call out anyone specifically, or even to call out men in general. “Men = bad, women = good” isn’t the idea here, and hardcore/post-hardcore/metalcore aren’t the only genres that have issues with representation of women. Rather, the purpose of this article is to call out a prevailing attitude that I think needs some reevaluation; the attitude that, to quote Laura Mulvey, “Women are bearers of meaning, not makers of meaning.”

For me, this is the link to creating a “Women of Hardcore” serial. There needs to be a shift in perspective. By collecting interviews with various female talents in the scene, we want to emphasize these people as active contributors to music and music culture, and hopefully, show other fans of hardcore–female and male–that there is a place for them, too. So let’s go make some meaning, regardless of your sexy parts.

Retrospective: Baruch College’s Music Journalism Panel

NYMIA panel

 

Being “in and of the scene” is not a hollow slogan at HXC Magazine; it is a belief and an ideal. It is crucial for us to not only report on the goings on in the hardcore, punk and metal music scenes, but to contribute to those same outlets and people. Media is as much a tool for disseminating knowledge and awareness and for actively shaping the world as it is for simply spreading the news of the day. This is why when HXC was asked to participate in a panel on music blogging and journalism at Baruch College on April 23rd, we jumped at the chance.

At the panel, we had the humbling opportunity to speak alongside representatives from fellow music media outlets Audiofemme and Village Voice to students eager to participate in the music industry. Annie White, executive director of Audiofemme, and Linda Leseman, longtime freelancer for publications like Village Voice and LA Weekly, had some excellent insight to offer: be business-minded and include clown college on your resume. (Maybe not exactly that last part, though it did help Leseman land a job once. The point is, don’t be afraid to get a little weird.) Know your stuff. Be both a force to be reckoned with and a fun-loving fan. Walk tough lines and learn how to keep your footing. Contradictions abound but in between them is where you need to be.

Other topics we discussed ranged from how to get people to notice your writing to how to interview artists to “you’re probably going to be dirt broke for a while but that’s okay, don’t panic.” Some of the most important pieces of advice given across the board had to do more with life than journalism: Try new things that maybe terrify you; get inspired; put yourself out there; don’t be afraid to assert yourself. Each panelist had their own set of accomplishments and setbacks, but all seemed to reach one common destination of music, writing, and followed passion. When it comes down to it, if there’s one fact any professional or person anywhere needs to know it’s that we all have the power to make things happen. Work hard, try to remind yourself sleeping is somewhat necessary, and go out and be in and of your scene.

Nirvana Cover Songs are Stupid and Contagious

grungy death 2

Punk Goes Grunge really doesn’t sound all too inspiring. In a world and music scene in which Punk Goes… is a franchise, hearing breakdowns accompany Katy Perry tracks or ’90s throwbacks is nothing new.  In fact, it’s almost expected since making a solid pop cover track can help make or break a band when it comes to getting signed to a label. That being said, what happens when punk (or what’s in actuality post-hardcore, metalcore, and pop punk) try to cover grunge or metal songs?

Typically you get one of two things: either a sound so similar that you find yourself questioning why anyone covered the track in the first place or a sound so entirely different and jarring that the integrity of the initial song is completely lost.

We got our first real taste of this problem with Punk Goes ’90s Vol. 2The Color Morale made a cringe-worthy, over produced cover of the Foo Fighter‘s staple “Everlong,” Ice Nine Kills showcased an amplified  pop rock version of Green Day‘s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” and Motionless In White rendered an exact copy of Rammstein‘s “Du Hast.”  A good cover is a song that takes the base of a track and holds the nature of that song true but also adds the flair of the band covering it to make it their own.  Industrial metalcore bands like Motionless In White shouldn’t be releasing covers of industrial metal bands like Rammstein simply because there is nothing much they can do to add to that track.  Other bands, like the Foo Fighters and Green Day are such iconic faces in modern music that they simply shouldn’t be altered.  The same is to be said of Nirvana.  Absolutely no one should be covering Nirvana tracks right now, regardless of the current resurgence of Cobain’s popularity.

My anger towards this situation appeared after hearing the latest compilation of Nirvana tribute songs, Robotic Empire‘s Whatever Nevermind, in which the label collected bands such as Torche, La Dispute, Circa Survive and Touché Amoré to render classic and even not-so-classic Nirvana songs as their own.  Along with the release of this album on Record Store Day, the grand April holiday also saw the release of Comeback Kid‘s cover of “Territorial Pissings.”

Nirvana, as with Green Day and the Foo Fighters, are still incredibly relevant.  They haven’t quite fallen into The Beatles iconic fame and legendary status as people are still trying to uncover exactly who Cobain was and what Nirvana actually meant for music.  The tale of Paul McCartney and John Lennon has been uncovered, publicized and revered in a way in which releasing an entire film of cover songs like Across the Universe is both acceptable and lauded. Conversely, we’re still in a state in which we don’t quite understand most of Nirvana.  Hell, there’s still a debate on why or even if Cobain killed himself, and unless you’re Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, Butch Vig, Steve Albini or Courtney Love you probably have  no grasp on how or why he wrote and recorded music the way he did.  Being unable to interpret that significant fact of such an iconic voice and figure should lead people to have enough respect to not actually go and remodel one of Cobain’s tracks.

Grunge is the voice of indie.  Grunge is an informal outlet of punk.  Grunge is the signature rock sound of the early ’90s.  But grunge is also exceptionally dead.  There’s no way an indie/punk/post-hardcore/rock band can come in today and revive grunge.  Alice In Chains couldn’t even find success doing it when Layne Staley died.  And believe me, they tried.   If a forerunner in the grunge movement couldn’t keep it alive, there’s no way any of these more marginal bands are going to be able to.

Whatever Nevermind

Let’s talk about “Polly.”

“Polly” is one hell of a fucked up song.  For those of you who don’t know, “Polly” is about a real life rapist who held a girl captive and whose first-person perspective Cobain felt absolutely compelled to write about.  That’s fucking weird. Bands like La Dispute, who I have nothing but respect for, should not be covering that track. Not only do they do very little to change up how the song initially sounded, but they lose a lot of the eerie concepts placed behind that song because they didn’t write it.  Those twisted thoughts were not in their heads to make that track genuine or forthcoming.  It’s a cover that offers nothing to the music scene and doesn’t challenge the listener in the way that Cobain’s original version did. They probably would have had better luck covering “Rape Me,” but I guess in today’s world you can’t cover a track with that title in the same way that Slayer is no longer permitted to cover Minor Threat‘s “Guilty of Being White.”

Then there are bands who cover truly iconic Nirvana songs.  First off, it should go without saying that if it smells like the only Nirvana song you know, it shouldn’t be covered. But people still do.  “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is so well known and so iconic, that when you hear an alternative version of it, most people are inclined to cringe since they are banking on hearing those blaring soft to loud contradictions within the verse/chorus song structure and the complete inability to determine whether Cobain is saying “hello” or “how low.”  Covers typically force the coverer to pick one phrasing and pursue that translation, thus making it a decided interpretation of song we still don’t fucking understand.

Are all covers bad? No.  Circa Survive’s “Drain You” is listenable, but simply because they added very little to the track.  But with every just vaguely different track comes a track so butchered that it’s upsetting to hear.  Kylesa‘s cover of “Come As You Are,” for example, is another moment in time in which someone believes you can make that song an indie slow jam and get away with it.  You can’t.  It makes a classic song feel tired and drained. In the end you are left with the feeling that people are trying way too hard. Cobain wrote these tracks with definitive thoughts in mind. Over-thinking a track that’s already had an intention placed behind it is unnecessary and loses the effect the track initially held.

So then, are these covers ever acceptable? In my opinion, no.  Do some bands do it better than others? Yes.  In comparison to White Reaper‘s cover of “Territorial Pissings,” Comeback Kid does it much, much better.  When listening to the two side by side, White Reaper gives the illusion that they are trying to cover a Nirvana song in a well-planned, strategic manner.  Comeback Kid, however, just sound like they decided to jam out to a Nirvana track. It’s genuine fandom rather than a fabrication of a song someone bigger and more important wrote. The same can be said of Every Time I Die‘s live cover of “Tourette’s.”  ETID didn’t release the track in recorded form, and therefore hold the same genuine appreciation for Nirvana by showcasing it live and in a fashion that makes a song off of In Utero sound like a track from Bleach while still having that real old school ETID feel. But not one of these tracks are better than the originals.

No Nirvana cover will ever be accepted until Nirvana fades from mainstream relevancy.  Once Cobain becomes Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney and the world is ready for new interpretations on the grunge world, then covers can be acceptable.  But the ’90s are way too close to the now and the vocal strains inside of Nirvana’s haunting tracks are still as eerie and hard hitting now as they were twenty years ago. Let the band ride the legacy they created, and if you have to cover it, do so genuinely. Do so live. Do so in the moment without the over-thinking and strange musical additions and interpretations that help lose the messages Cobain, Novoselic and Grohl created.  And for fuck’s sake, if you absolutely have to do Punk Goes Grunge, someone hit up a Bleach song.  Maybe I’ll shut up if Josh Scogin does a cover of “Negative Creep”; maybe then I’d believe that these covers can actually happen. Until then, leave it to Kurt or keep it to live performance. The world isn’t ready for over-produced interpretations of tracks we still don’t understand.  Lose yourself in the music, don’t think so much, and in time, Nirvana will be appropriate to re-examine through cover songs.

Check out the album stream for Whatever Nevermind via Noisey right here.

Sworn In: Lunatics or Artistic Masterminds

sworn-in-mindless-music-video

To anyone who has recently heard the new Sworn In record, The Lovers/The Devil, you may be asking yourself “What the hell did I just listen to?” And this is a pretty standard reaction as many of the tracks on the quintet’s sophomore effort are pretty much collections of not-so-collaborative noise.  After the great success of their debut full-length, The Death Card, this shift from “emocore” to experimental melodic metal(ish) collage-djent (yes, that is a mouthful just as much as an earful) felt almost disappointing and out of place for the band.

A couple weeks back I cited Sworn In as one of the bands you need to know based mainly off of their highly innovative efforts on The Death Card, or XIII, depending on how you want to read it. It’s a fantastic album that carries a distinct sound throughout the entire work, but is filled to the brim with dynamic and out of the box rhythmic patterns over strange chord progressions and an intense use of distortion pedals.  It’s what I imagine broken hearted spoken word in a dive bar would sound like if suddenly Rise Records wanted to remix it.  While it’s definitely a little bizarre, it’s also incredibly intense and highly enjoyable. So when The Lovers/The Devil dropped and I couldn’t understand my own disappointment in their strange, new musical direction, I had to take a step back and ask myself, “Have Sworn In gone crazy or are they really just musical geniuses no one understands?”

When it comes to art and music, where do we find the exact divider?  In fact, is there even a dividing line or is music simply a form or “genre” of art?  And if so, is art all encompassing of “the arts” and thus not solely focused on the major artistic media such as painting, sculpting, and drawing?

Okay, so where is all of this philosophical stuff coming from that sounds like the beginning of a bad 101 class in college?  And why am I asking so many goddamn questions?

Sworn_In_-_The_Lovers-The_Devil

Well, that’s kind of the point.  When you listen to a great record, not just a good record, you want the music to challenge you.  This is why listening to albums like Stick To Your GunsDisobedient will always hold more of an impact than listening to Falling In Reverse‘s Just Like YouWhile FIR may have catchy and even danceable riffs and hooks, STYG are preaching lyrics with a strong message as well as musical backbone.  People love Bring Me The Horizon for similar reasons.  While the music is amazing and ever-changing, it’s the personal and emotional aspect of tracks like “It Never Ends” and “Drown” that will resonate with the listener long after the records stop spinning.  If the music doesn’t subliminally force the listener to think in some new or different way then there really is no point to invest yourself in it.

When I first heard The Lovers/The Devil I was confused.  I had previously only heard the singles “Sunshine” and “I Don’t Really Love You” and I couldn’t quite get a grasp on why the fuck a band so rooted in doing spoken, emotionally driven unclean vocals would want to introduce these weird meshes of melodic cleans sporadically throughout each track.  It wasn’t sonically pleasing, and it wasn’t aesthetically intriguing either.  The fan feedback via social media also seemed to be just as disappointed or confused as I was (though now, looking back, I think it was more confusion disguised as disappointment).  The one major thing this album was doing was getting people talking–whether it was good or bad, people were genuinely discussing these out-of-left-field singles that seemingly no one could figure out.

In a strange move, Sworn In took to social media themselves to really push the idea that the album needed to be listened to as a whole, not just in bits and pieces.  They stressed it was a concept album divided into two major ideas, The Lovers and The Devil, naturally, and encouraged fans not to write them off for their shift in sound.

sworn in screen shot

So with that I went back into it.

And still wasn’t satisfied.

When we think “concept album,” we are thinking of an album that is divided up into varying sections and stories, but what if each track on The Lovers/The Devil is actually more of a microcosm of the entire album?  Just about every track except “Oliolioxinfree” has this bizarre separation of depressing lullaby-like melody amongst thrashy, experimental hardcore.  The title of the album is problematic enough.  The Lovers/The Devil is not only annoying to type, but it’s also kind of jarring to look at and say. It’s two separate ideas used to create one concept, one idea. Perhaps this jarring sonic effect was the purpose; perhaps this album is meant to be just as jarring as the stylized title suggests.

"Number 1 (Lavender Mist)" by Jackson Pollock
“Number 1 (Lavender Mist)” by Jackson Pollock

The fact of the matter is that The Lovers/The Devil is never going to be truly sonically enjoyable.  There is an intentional formula behind it that makes it just impeccably grating to listen to.  But it can be appreciated for its conceptual sophistication.  Think of Jackson Pollock. His paintings are sporadic and all over the place, but they say something far more transcendent than just a run of the mill portrait.  They create outward commentaries on society and the people of the art world as well as those who view, collect, and showcase his paintings.  They say that there are set formulas for “art,” but we do not necessarily need to follow them in order to create Art. There may not necessarily be a skill displayed within the painting, or a catchy flow to this album for that matter, but it’s a concept that came about from both past experience in and knowledge of the industry as well as technical skills in general.  It’s throwing conventions to the wind and in the end creating conversation.

You cannot deny that people are talking about The Lovers/The Devil.  While this time around the lyrics may not be the selling point that the listener takes away, it’s the challenge of making a new sound with a dualistic concept present in almost every track that is completely throwing people off their game.  Metalcore, hardcore, djent, punk, dubstep, whatever alternative music you listen to is always so rooted in verse, chorus, verse, chorus, hook/breakdown/bass drop, chorus, blah blah blah, that when an album comes around and changes the entire dynamic, people tend to jump and just say it’s bad. But “bad” is the wrong word for The Lovers/The Devil because the album isn’t one to be listened to for its musicality, it’s meant to be listened to for its innovation and artistic nature.  I will never bump this album on a car ride or at a party. I will never want to listen to it because of any melodic nature it may hold.  And that’s because The Lovers/The Devil shouldn’t be viewed as a record. It should be viewed as sonic concept Art. And for that, Sworn In deserves to be lauded for their efforts, not beaten down for making a record absolutely no one expected.

This Is ‘A Tribute To Taking Back Sunday’

a tribute to taking back sunday

Alternative Press has exclusively premiered news of the upcoming A Tribute To Taking Back Sunday record with a stream of Everyone Dies In Utah’s version of “A Decade Under The Influence.” While this is not the first tributary album Pacific Ridge Records has released, it signifies something tremendously important to this music scene generally and to me personally. (Take one look at my bio and you’ll get a small impression of why that is.) Though HXC Magazine is not purposed to delivering my personal narrative, my story is bound to HXC‘s mission of making the individuals of the scene just as valued as the bands who shape it.

That fifteen bands have come together to honor and celebrate Taking Back Sunday speaks to the Long Island band’s indelible legacy. Countless artists and fans alike have been moved and impacted by the band’s music since the first time they heard “Cute Without The E (Cut From The Team)” and asked, “What the fuck was that?” and hit replay for the first of many hundreds of times. As for me, Tell All Your Friends (which I have tattooed on my hand) was the record that ignited an obsession for this kind of gritty yet deft emo punk sound that consequently evolved into my love for hardcore. I credit Taking Back Sunday with not only the development of my music taste but in part to the development of my person, and A Tribute To Taking Back Sunday, set to come out April 14th, proves that many of you have been impacted the same way.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes an album or a band revolutionary or memorable; what it is that makes them almost a larger than life institution or ideology rather than a collection of people and sounds. At the heart of it, though, lies a distinct kind of genuineness and spirit. When listening to a Taking Back Sunday album there is a sense that some part of the soul has been left there. It’s raw and it lives. This new catalog of covers serves to remind us that some albums are so seminal that they manifest lives of their own and last for generations; that any individual or collection of individuals can make a lasting impression worthy of remembrance; that our scene is one that converses and feeds back into itself and truly warrants the label of community. So to the all the undying Taking Back Sunday fans who have been so long under the influence, I hope these simple words find you well.

Check out the new Everyone Dies In Utah track over at AP and pre-order the record at Bandcamp.

Best,

A Timberwolf from New Jersey.

“Scene” is Not a Dirty Word

Music Stereotypes

What do you think of when you hear the word “scene”?   If you’re just the average Joe, you probably are thinking of the setting and actions of a play, a moment in your favorite movie, something built up and dramatized, or just something concrete to look at and remember. It can even reflect a culture or lifestyle as one major umbrella topic.

What a pretty scene here at the beach.  That’s my favorite scene in Almost Famous.  That neighborhood has such a cool skate scene.   It’s all good and dandy; that is, unless you are talking about the “scene” of the substream music world. Then it becomes a dreaded word.

I am talking about the -core bands, the non-mainstream pop punk movements, and offshoots of metal that help make up Warped Tour lineups, Hot Topic trends, and give magazines like us, Alt Press, and Rocksound something to write about.  While the varying sounds and genres of all of these bands may not overlap, their fan followings, press coverage, and tours usually do. What’s the most logical term to use to describe that? Scene, of course.

Growing up with the music that I liked, the shows that I went to, and the people that I hung out with, I always just referred to it as my “scene.”  Of course, as I was referring to this the term, “scene kid” started to replace the term “emo” and became just as degrading or offensive.  In fact, as I started to interview bands, if I referred to anything such as “this music scene” or “the scene your band stemmed from,” they’d typically try to correct me and say they didn’t want to call it a scene, however, they never really offered another term for it to go by.

Scene Feature

The problem with this realm of the music world is that it’s not fully hardcore, it’s not fully punk, it’s not fully metal, it’s not fully pop.  It’s a strange mixture of sounds with a varying range.  Why can State Champs, Blood On The Dance Floor, Vanna, Terror, and Attack Attack! all be offered the same opportunities from Kevin Lyman if they have (for the most part) opposing sounds?  Well, because many of their values and audiences overlap.  The fact that many of these “diehard” or overbearing children of the MySpace age (myself included) became labeled as scene kids for how they looked, acted, and what they listened to is not a product of the music, it’s a product of the time.  Sure, generic stereotypes came out of wearing intense side bangs that covered your entire face, crazy dyed hair, skinny ties (usually as anything but a tie), highlighter colored vans, and rubber band bracelets a mile long up your arms, but we loved and rocked that look.  And who were the people who hated on the scene kids? The metal heads and the hardcore kids?  Basically the kids so involved with the offshoots of this substream world that they knew what to look for to hate on scene kids. Please allow me to also wear immense amounts of black and a Metallica shirt from their thrash age that I lifted from my dad, or immense amounts of flannel shirts in varying colors with my square rimmed glasses and a Texas in July beanie. Trust me, I can willingly and gladly rock all of the fashions and support all of the styles of music associated with metal and hardcore, too.

When we talk about scene, the negatives trend around a previous fashion, style, and look characterizing a generation for the most part that has now grown up.  But why is that term still so negative?  “Emo” was hated for years.  My Chemical Romance, the band who reportedly “Wouldn’t front the scene if you paid me,” denounced being emo, and guess what?  They went down in history for 1. fronting the scene and 2. being one of the most influential “emo” rock bands to break the mainstream (and still didn’t sell out to do it, I might add).  Now look at the music headlines.  Everyone is talking about the “emo revival” that’s upon us.  It’s being lauded for what it was and the upcoming bands that influenced it.  Emo had been a stereotype associated with a style, sound, and negative actions of self harm.  That’s why people hated it, because they all believed that kids who listened to it were mopey and in need of psychological help.  That’s gross, and widely untrue.  Associating a sound with one particular mental state is an invalid overgeneralization.  A sound that helps inspire someone in need is what music is all about however, and emo was the poster child of that movement.  A band doesn’t literally save someone’s life, but the connection and inspiration one gets from listening to music that relates to them does.

Eventually emo would open the doors for the term “scene” since it is, first and foremost, just a noun referring to a collective state or following of something.  That’s it, a noun.  It’s not all-inclusive or exclusive and doesn’t mean you can’t break out of it.  Look at Of Mice & Men or A Day To Remember or even Blink-182.  They started somewhere, with a certain scene, and branched out, but are still loved by the fans that first helped jumpstart their careers. When turned into an adjective, however, for some reason “scene” is a dirty word because guitarist so-and-so and vocalist whatshisname don’t want to be crowned “the poster child of Hot Topic” or whatever their shallow qualms may be.  Why? Hot Topic probably sells your band’s T-shirt, and you know damn well you probably want people to buy and wear your band’s name.  That’s why people make music: to share it with other people.

So in defense of the scene kid, the emo, the hardcore kid and the metal head, all terms I’ve been labeled for how I dress, act, and what I listen to, I say fucking own your title.  Those aren’t negatives because people say it with snark or try to avoid it.  By not owning what and who you are you give power to those who want to put those phrases down.  So in defense of the music SCENE that I am heavily involved in, largely in love with, and have been for the majority of my life, I refuse to not use that term when referring to this musical collective and lifestyle.

It’s difficult to always say “the musical substream of the bands that are widely accepted on Warped Tour and through offshoots of ’90s metal,’80s hardcore and pop punk.” That’s exhausting and takes forever to type. Let’s just call it what it is. It’s our music scene.  It’s fun, diverse, ever-changing and something we should be proud to be associated with.  We don’t have to be scene kids.  We just have to love our scene and know that it’s okay to call it that.

Decoding Our Culture: Punk Still Undesirable

It has actively shaped our dinner conversations, our values, and our standard of living. It delivers narratives of truth and falsehood to us on a daily basis. Some may even be wont to call it a progenitor of American culture as we know it–the Television. And guess what? Punks, hardcore kids, and rockers of essentially any type have been targeted by it for some time. It’s a popular sitcom trope, a supposedly funny joke, and an inexcusable insult to an entire subculture: The Undesirable, The Delinquent, the kid you hope your daughter isn’t dating. We get it, you don’t think we belong here.

“Do you think that people should be judged until they’re driven into a hole, perhaps even suicide? Let us know!” – Russell Brand

The institutions that fabricate, structure, and reinforce American cultural values are numerous and under-analyzed. Magazines, movies, TV shows, and advertisements are all products of such institutions that the average person tends to accept as facts of reality. Outlets like People Magazine and TMZ, for example, make it acceptable and commonplace to glorify and harass the famous, a sentiment to which actor Russell Brand recently spoke. (For those of you who haven’t yet seen his keen rant on bullying in the media, with specific regards to Bruce Jenner’s so-called transgender “crisis,” watch the above video.) The music that makes it to Top 40 and the advertisements that guide us to buy our chosen brands of liquor economize the female body and human sexuality, helping to make both a battleground. The point being, the products that come from our culture are the very same that create it. This is why we as people, as Americans, and as contributors to the modern Zeitgeist need to be hyper-aware of the way we brand, market, and sell.

The video clip above is a currently running commercial for Downy’s Unstopables air freshener. Notice anything? The son of the woman who wishes the room smelled “like he’s away at boarding school” is playing guitar, has skateboarding and band posters on his wall, and is, arguably, dressed in rocker-like attire. This is the visual that is meant to warrant our, the viewer’s, sympathy and agreement. “Yes, I can see how that is unpleasant for you, Mom. You should ship him off and get an Unstopables air freshener!”

But maybe you’re not as easily triggered as I am. Maybe you don’t think this is enough of an argument to make. No problem. Below is another commercial that ran for DirecTV a couple of years ago.

Miss it that time? I hope not, because “Undesirable” was stressed four times. Of course the delinquents the daughter hangs out with after getting kicked out of school for poor behavior are dressed in studded vests, big hair, and black skinny jeans. DirecTV makes it painfully clear, “Don’t have a grandson with a dog collar.” Run along now and upgrade to DirecTV, like a Type A American.

The same problem that Brand addresses in his indictment of celebrity news as bullying is the same problem that I address here. It is that of Other-ing an individual or a group of individuals; of making such people feel unwanted and somehow wrong for their own self-expression. To put it simply, it is prejudice. If you think the use of the word here is inflammatory and misplaced, I implore you to reconsider. Like Brand aptly remarks, these kinds of media that promote bullying are “not disassociated from the more vivid and violent terrors and horrors of the world. This climate of bullying and judgement and cruelty is a violence of its own nature. It contributes to the climate. All of these things are real.”

How many people are deemed not hire-able because of piercings, tattoos, or dyed hair? Did you know any kids (or were you perhaps the kid) in school who was called ‘freak’ or ‘fag’ or some other ridiculous term, and even beat up for dressing differently or for listening to heavier music? Do you catch people staring at you in a judgmental way because you wear a lot of black or do people label you naive when you tell them “*sigh* Yes, I do still listen to My Chemical Romance”? For not just these daily experiences, but for the very reason that this concept keeps appearing in our TV commercials do I call it prejudice. Commercials like the Unstopables and DirecTV ads referenced in this article tell consumers that there is a certain type of person that does not fit the accepted model of the good ol’ American family. “You don’t want this, so take necessary precautions to avoid.”

Instead of avoiding a certain type of person, how about we make society at large more accepting of different kinds of people? Instead of relegating the American standard of youth to the white (which is a whole other can of worms), cardigan-wearing child, how about we expand our definitions? What if we accept the notion that people don’t occupy clearcut binaries of good and bad, acceptable and not? But what do I know, I’m just a delinquent, a thief who admittedly borrowed that last bit from The Breakfast Club.

Sincerely,

I straighten my hair and wear my black hat backwards and my room smells fine.

Did Danny Worsnop Just Kill His Career?

Worsnop

The internet is blowing up with “Breaking News: Danny Worsnop Leaves Asking Alexandria” headlines.  Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and various music media outlets are all reporting that yes, Mr. Worsnop has finally left Asking Alexandria, but the real question is “Is this actually breaking news?” The best answer to that would be no, it’s not.  Ever since the third AA album, From Death to Destiny, dropped in 2013 there have been rumors of tension between Worsnop and the rest of AA.  The golden friendship we saw between Worsnop and AA guitarist/founder Ben Bruce seemed clouded and the overall aesthetic of the third full-length felt forced and pulled in two different directions: AA’s signature electro-metalcore sound and the ode to ’80s hard rock that would eventually shape Worsnop’s “side project” We Are Harlot.

For anyone who has not read it, Worsnop left this note to his followers on Twitter to make his announcement:

“To all of my friends and fans: I would like to let you know that Asking Alexandria and I are moving forward in separate ways. Over the last eight years together we’ve done some amazing things and created something truly special. I now, same as then, want what’s best for the band and at this point in time, that isn’t me. Asking Alexandria will continue to tour throughout the year and will be working on a new album. I will always support and love Asking Alexandria and cannot wait to see what the future holds for them. I am excited for the next chapter of my life with We Are Harlot and will see you all on the road!”

As Worsnop forgoes continuing to work with AA, I have to ask why? Leaving a band he helped break into the scene, of which he became both a prominent face and a respected icon, is kind of like career suicide, especially if he is leaving to pursue something more in the hard rock sphere rather than the -core realm. Facebook comments are attributing this switch due to the damage Worsnop’s vocal chords have received over the years thanks to his relentless partying. Back when I was growing up and learning how to play drums, my drum teacher–for whom I have the most respect–pulled the whole “steer clear of drugs and alcohol” routine that all after school programs regurgitate to their pupils.  He told me, “Don’t drink underage or passed your limit. If you do that, then you can’t be the drummer of Led Zeppelin.”  Now, my teacher was referring to John Bonham who died due to over consumption of alcohol, but that always stuck with me. In Danny’s case, if he has left Asking Alexandria due to the damage drugs and alcohol inflicted, physically and perhaps interpersonally, then my drum teacher was right.  All actions have consequences, even when you have made it to the top (of the scene). AA, however, accommodated Worsnop’s vocal change in From Death to Destiny showcasing in tracks like “The Death of Me” that their aesthetic could work with Worsnop’s new limitations, thus making his departure only two days after the announcement of We Are Harlot’s debut album more jarring.


Danny Worsnop with We Are Harlot in their latest release. 

The two releases we have received from We Are Harlot, “Denial” and “Dancing On Nails,” have left me in a world of confusion.  Whereas “Denial” sounds like Nikki Sixx got drunk, wrote a song at 3am, spilled a beer on his notes and then recorded what he had left before he went to sleep, “Dancing On Nails” is a little more digestible.  The issue with these two ’80s throwbacks is that they feel like ’80s throwbacks…being played in a bar..in the East Village…by Steel Panther fans. There’s absolutely nothing in We Are Harlot at this point that I haven’t heard before.  Hell, there is nothing in We Are Harlot that my parents haven’t heard before.  It’s an overdone concept that bands like We Are Harlot, Black Veil Brides (and even Escape the Fate to a sense) are trying to unlock by bringing back old school rock.  News Flash: Old school rock ‘n’ roll is decidedly dead by the old school rockers (*cough* Gene Simmons *cough*).

I am in no way agreeing with Simmons in saying that rock ‘n’ roll is dead.  I personally believe it is very much alive, but it is alive because that old school sound no longer is.  Today we have bands who are really pushing the boundaries of hardcore, metal, punk, thrash, etc.  We have bands who are expanding the definition of rock ‘n’ roll; bands that are still edgy, innovative, outlandish, and of the times. As the post-hardcore scene paved the way from its earlier days with groups like Botch and Every Time I Die to what it is now with our beloved British rockers, Asking Alexandria, we consistently see progression in rock ‘n’ roll.  Rock is only dead if we continue to fall back on our laurels and never risk taking it somewhere new.


Danny Worsnop circa 2009 with Asking Alexandria. 

So, do I think Danny Worsnop is killing his career by forsaking Asking Alexandria? Yes.  His voice is no longer what it once was, which is a true tragedy, and his creative outlook has now trailed off from that which made Stand Up and Scream one of the most innovative metalcore albums of its time.  But as the saying goes, when one door closes, another opens, and I look forward to seeing where Ben Bruce and crew take Asking Alexandria in the near future.

Don’t agree with me? That’s cool.  Let HXC know why in the comments below. We want to hear from you!