Book Review: Read My Lips

Hardcore demanded history, so here it pounds

Read My Lips

NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980-1990

by Tony Rettman
Bazillion Points, 384 pp., $29.95 (paper)

American punk first ignited in Seventies NYC (gabba gabba hey), but as noted repeatedly in this chunky, warts 'n' all oral history, the big, rotten apple lagged far behind when it came to hardcore. Unlike the rest of Reagan-era youth, the CBGB crowd's stimulations of "louder, faster rules" arrived with the nailgun-to-the-head blitzkrieg of D.C.'s Bad Brains and Minor Threat. Early East Village HC outfits like Heart Attack, the Mob, and Jack Rabid's Even Worse evidenced the grimy chops to blaze new trails, but unlike their D.C., Boston, and SoCal counterparts – who were mostly white suburban kids from middle-class families – the New York teens didn't have the means to record, and thus preserve, their blisteringly nihilistic aural wreckage. That all changed with the release of Agnostic Front's Victim in Pain album in 1984 and the Cro-Mags' Age of Quarrel LP two years later. By then, the scene had gone through so many factionalized permutations it was difficult to tell who was on first. Rettman's exhaustive recounting includes tidbits from literally everyone who was anyone in the NYHC scene, making it invaluable punk rock history and the perfect companion to Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me.

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NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980-1990, Minor Threat, Bad Brains

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